During a just completed visit to Washington, Yugoslavia's Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus was told that while there has been progress, Serbia has not yet done enough to meet U.S. requirements making aid contingent on Yugoslav cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
A congressional deadline of March 31 has come and gone. And the U.S. Secretary of State has not yet certified that Yugoslavia has met conditions set by U.S. lawmakers. U.S. officials, speaking on background, commend the Serbs for meeting some of the conditions, cutting off financial aid to the Bosnian Serb army, opening their military archives to investigators, and passing a law on cooperation with the tribunal set up to human rights violations during the wars of Yugoslav succession.
What U.S. officials are looking for is the extradition of tribunal indictees who are believed to be in Serbia and Montenegro. The most wanted men are former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadjic and General Ratko Mladic.
In his meetings with the Bush administration, Mr. Labus was told that until Belgrade hands over key indictees, the United States will have to oppose further World Bank and International Monetary Fund aid for Serbia. A major IMF loan has already been put together but the formal approval that had been scheduled for early May is being pushed back to give Belgrade more time.
Sharon Fisher analyzes the Serbian economy for DRI-Wefa, an economic forecasting service in Washington. Ms. Fisher says Belgrade urgently needs the IMF assistance. And she belie ves the west should be generous in backing the economic reformers in Belgrade.
"I think it is very important that the international community support this government," he said. "To make sure that they stay in power. They are reform oriented. And the alternatives would be definitely much worse."
Mr. Labus, in an interview with VOA's Serbian service, indicated that six or seven Hague indictees are likely to be handed over in the next few days. Mr. Labus said he had cordial talks with IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler, who has given his backing for the 800 million dollar IMF loan.
U.S. officials likewise strongly support the IMF loan but say they can not vote for it until Serbia has been certified as in compliance with the congressional mandate. They are hopeful that certification will occur by May 1.
Researcher Fisher says the cash infusion is needed quickly to assure that the government's reform momentum continues. She says the government faces an enormous challenge in moving to the second stage of reform, privatizing industries, putting people to work and attracting foreign direct investment that is also being courted by neighboring Balkan countries.