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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Slav Presidents Show Unity in Belgrade




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- President Slobodan Milosevic met Wednesday with his Belarussian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, a vehement opponent of the NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia.


A rare daylight air raid alert sounded in Belgrade as the two presidents were talking, and jets could be heard flying overhead. Yugoslav army officials said they were NATO planes.


"It was a rude gesture to demonstrate NATO's military might" at the time of the meeting, a Yugoslav official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


The meeting at the White Palace, Belgrade's presidential residence, was at Milosevic's invitation. Lukashenko was tentatively scheduled to stay in Yugoslavia one or two days.


The Belarussian leader said Milosevic was willing to negotiate toward a political settlement and would accept international peace monitors - a major demand from NATO members - but only if from non-NATO countries.


"Yugoslavia is ready for the deployment of civilian observers from the UN or other international organizations in Kosovo but not from the countries involved in the aggression in the Balkans," Lukashenko said.


The authoritarian Lukashenko has vehemently opposed the NATO raids. He said last fall that Belarus would supply weapons to Yugoslavia if NATO launched raids, but has announced no specific plans to do so since the strikes began March 24.


Yugoslavia has expressed an interest in joining a Slavic union that already includes Russia and Belarus. Lukashenko has previously called for the incorporation of other Slavic nations into the alliance.


Although Russia and Belarus strongly oppose the NATO bombing, their support for fellow Slavs in Yugoslavia has fallen short of backing Belgrade's bid to join the loose union.


Lukashenko, who has a record of disagreement with the West over human rights in the former Soviet republic, complained that NATO had tried to prevent his mission.


"I do not think it is too important whether a dictator or a liberal contributes a precious token of peace," Lukashenko told reporters before leaving Minsk. "The main thing is to move at least several millimeters closer to the end of war."


Interfax quoted Lukashenko's government as saying that NATO had advised him not to travel to Yugoslavia.


"The fact that NATO failed to offer any security guarantees is characteristic of some unions and personalities," Lukashenko said. "Well, Russia offered the guarantees. Thank God we are still living in a civilized world."