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Serbian PM Pledges to Continue Anti-Crime Campaign - 2003-07-28

Serbia's reformist prime minister, Zoran Zivkovic, Monday concluded a visit to Washington pledging to continue a highly visible campaign against organized crime and maintain cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.

Mr. Zivkovic expressed satisfaction with his talks with U.S. officials including Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. Speaking at the National Press Club, he said Serbia will prove that it is a good partner of the United States, a process he hopes will lead to normal trade relations and Serbian firms winning reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

He said if fugitive Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic is still in Serbia and Montenegro he will be arrested and sent to the Hague.

Mr. Zivkovic, long time activist in the anti-Milosevic struggle, became prime minister after his predecessor, Zoran Djindjic, was assassinated in downtown Belgrade four months ago.

A close ally of the slain prime minister, Mr. Zivkovic has presided over an extensive drive against the organized crime gangs accused of being behind the assassination. He said criminal gangs associated with Slobodon Milosevic expected the murder to trigger chaos that would lead to their return to power.

Instead, said Mr. Zivkovic, the reformist government took control of the army and over the next month put all major criminals in the country in jail. He said while corruption remains a problem, Serbia and Montenegro has become the cleanest of all post-communist countries in Europe.

Mr. Zivkovic is optimistic that Serbia and Montenegro will remain linked in the new looser federation that emerged from the rump Yugoslavia earlier this year. He said the final status of Kosovo is likely to be determined by the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States as well as by Serbia and Kosovo.

"The future status of Kosovo will have to be determined by negotiations between Belgrade, Pristina, Washington, Brussels and New York," he said.

Mr. Zivkovic made clear his opposition to independence for the 90 percent Albanian populated Serbian territory which for four years has been under United Nations control. He said Kosovo is a center for organized crime and smuggling. He said he will discuss Kosovo and the problems of the remaining Serbs there when he meets Tuesday in New York with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan.