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Yugoslavia Asks US to Prolong Deadline for War Criminals' Extradition

The head of Yugoslavia's central bank, Mladjan Dinkic, Monday appealed to the Congress to give Belgrade more time to comply with a U.S. demand that more Milosevic era war-crime suspects be handed over to the Hague tribunal. Mr. Dinkic is in Washington seeking additional money to rebuild Serbia's battered economy.

Speaking at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center, Mr. Dinkic asked Congress to be flexible and give his country one more month to prove that it is cooperating with the war crimes tribunal. Congress has said that U.S. aid to Yugoslavia should be suspended if Belgrade refuses to transfer to the Hague Serbs who have been indicted for crimes committed during the Bosnian war. A March 31 deadline had been set. Mr. Dinkic says it would be counter-productive if Washington cuts off aid and blocks multi-lateral assistance to Belgrade. "If the decision is made not to support the reforms in our country, this would only strengthen the forces who are for isolationism, the Milosevic forces. So, it is a very difficult problem. And I do not think this would be in favor of anybody who wants stability in this region," Mr. Dinkic said.

Mr. Dinkic is one of the two leading economic reformers in Belgrade. He took over the central bank after Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown in October, 2000. Serbia's reforms have won high marks from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and the IMF recently agreed to provide Belgrade with an $800 million three-year loan. The deal is to be approved by the IMF executive board in early May. Open U.S. opposition would cause the loan to be rejected. U.S.-Serbian relations have been strained since military security in Belgrade last month detained an American diplomat on suspicion of receiving secret documents related to the Hague proceedings.

Mr. Dinkic is critical of last month's agreement to forge a new and looser federation between Serbia and Montenegro. The central bank governor had argued unsuccessfully that Montenegro be compelled to give up its independent monetary policy and use the same money as Serbia. "The new agreement, which was made by the facilitation of the European Union is, as I said, something very original. And it can not be implemented in practice. Or, it will create difficulties during the process of implementation," Mr. Dinkic said.

Mr. Dinkic says Montenegro, whose economy is only five percent the size of Serbia's, is given too much power in economic matters. And that the accord will hold up Serbia's entry into the World Trade Organization. He characterized Serbia as a fast reformer and Montenegro as a laggard. He warned that public opinion in Serbia is moving toward rejecting future links with Montenegro. Mr. Dinkic predicts continuing rapid five percent growth in Serbia but warns that possible early elections later this year could be destabilizing.