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US Welcomes Yugoslav Restructuring - 2002-03-14

The United States is welcoming the agreement signed Thursday in Belgrade to restructure the Yugoslav federation and give the country a new name Serbia and Montenegro.

The United States had long opposed the secession of Montenegro from Serbia, the only other remaining part of the Yugoslav federation. And officials here are hoping the agreement creating the new union will signify the end of an era of unrest in the Balkans that began a decade ago with the breakup of the larger communist-era Yugoslavia.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher congratulated Serbian and Montenegrin leaders for their role in the agreement, mediated by European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Solana and signed Thursday in Belgrade.

"The agreement is in line with our long-standing view that there can be, should be a democratic Montenegro within a democratic Yugoslavia," he said. "We believe that the agreement signed today will help Serbia and Montenegro best achieve their aspirations to fully integrate with Europe and will promote stability within Yugoslavia and the region."

Mr. Boucher said much work remains to be done to bring the new union into effect, and said the United States looks to the leaders of Serbia and Montenegro to work constructively to fully realize the agreement.

Under the accord, the two states will share a defense and foreign policy but will maintain separate economies, customs services and currencies. The new entity will continue to have a federation president and hold a single seat in the United Nations.

Montenegro, the smaller of the two partners, will shelve for at least three years any plans for an independence vote.

Though it opposed Montenegrin seccession, the United States aided the mountain republic as a democratic counter-weight to the Slobodan Milosevic government in Belgrade, before its collapse in 2000.