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Serbian PM: Belgrade Glad to Participate in War on Terrorism - 2001-11-07

Visiting Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic had meetings in Washington Tuesday with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. He says Serbia and federal Yugoslavia are happy to be playing a supporting role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Mr. Djindjic, who leads the dominant Serb republic in the Yugoslav federation, says Belgrade's contribution to the anti-terrorism effort has by necessity been limited to things like the sharing of intelligence information.

But he says while their contribution is modest, Belgrade authorities are glad to be on the side of the international community, after years of isolation during the rule of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

"We are happy to, for the first time in the last 50 years, to be part of the democratic world fighting against the common evil," said Mr. Djindjic. And although we are a small part of this, we are on the right side."

Mr. Djindjic, held in high esteem in Washington for his key role last June in the extradition of Mr. Milosevic to the Hague, called his half-hour talk with Secretary Powell a "meeting among friends."

He called it a "duty" of Yugoslav leaders to keep the Balkans stable and not complicate the global crisis, and he expressed surprise that Bush administration officials were able to deal with Balkans issues with him and his team despite their focus on Afghanistan.

Mr. Djindjic went from the State Department to the White House, where President Bush joined a meeting between the Serbian leader and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

At both venues, Mr. Djindjic said he pressed the Bush administration to support increased economic aid and debt relief for his country.

But he said Serbia and the broader Yugoslavia do not want to be dependent on aid and that U.S. backing for private investment there is a "crucial" need.