Reuters International

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian and German police made a joint swoop on a drug smuggling ring, arresting 30 people and seizing narcotics worth around 20 million euros (£16.9 million), Serbia's interior minister said on Tuesday.

Serbia, which lies on key drug-smuggling routes between Central Asia and the wealthy markets of Europe, has stepped up efforts to combat organised crime and corruption in a bid to fulfil conditions for joining the European Union.

In the operation announced on Tuesday, after 13 months of investigations, police seized 303 kg (668 pounds) of cocaine, 106 kg of hashish and 96 kg of marijuana as well as weapons and money. Three further suspects remain at large.

"Serbia will continue to cooperate with Germany in all cases related with organised crime and corruption," interior minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said.

Since the ouster of former president Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, cooperation between Serbian and foreign police has improved dramatically. In 2014, a group of Serbian cocaine traffickers were arrested in an operation involving the CIA.

In separate raids last week, Serbian police arrested 68 people around the country on charges ranging from violent crime to drug trafficking.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Thomas Escritt and Robin Pomeroy)

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