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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbs Threaten to Ban U.S. Legislators

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbia threatened to ban members of the U.S. Congress who have supported the pro-democracy movement, a move that diplomats Thursday said would backfire on President Slobodan Milosevic.

Yugoslavia's foreign ministry has protested to the State Department about U.S. lawmakers taking part in pro-democracy rallies.

It said it would refuse visas to U.S. congressional delegations because legislators "abused Yugoslav hospitality'' by "meddling'' in Serbia's internal affairs.

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement Thursday stressing that Yugoslavia, now made up of Serbia and tiny Montenegro, "remains subject to [international] agreements guaranteeing free expression."

It warned that refusing visas "would only backfire against Yugoslavia.''

The embassy said the protest was made late last month.

Relations between the United States and Milosevic have been deteriorating since the Serbian president in November annulled opposition election victories in Belgrade and 13 other Serbian cities. Milosevic finally relented this week.

The United States has depended on Milosevic to implement the Dayton peace agreement for neighboring Bosnia. However, the growth of a well-organized opposition to the Serb leader has spurred Western officials to think about alternatives to his continued rule.

Milosevic has gone along with the installation of opposition candidates in town halls across Serbia, but that has failed to stem the mass protests. Thousands of people hit the streets again Wednesday to press for change, part of a grass-roots revolt that has combined with international pressure to create the biggest challenge so far to Milosevic.