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Kostunica sees Switzerland as model for Yugoslavia

Moritz Leuenberger (left) is the first western leader to be received with full state honours in Yugoslavia Keystone

The Yugoslav president, Vojislav Kostunica, says he intends to revamp his country's political structure using Switzerland as a model. He was speaking after talks with the Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, in Belgrade.

The two men also discussed frozen assets in Switzerland thought to belong to ousted president, Slobodan Milosevic.

Kostunica said he would draw on the Swiss example in future negotiations about the structure of the Yugoslav Federation – comprised of Serbia and its much smaller sister republic, Montenegro.

His comments come in the wake of a narrow election victory by Montenegro’s pro-independence forces, lead by that republic’s president, Milo Djukanovic. The victory is expected to lead to a vote on Montenegro’s secession from the Yugoslav Federation.

Kostunica made clear that he intends to hold the federation together, and that “Swiss constitutional solutions and experiences could be very valuable assets for us”.

For his part, Leuenberger said that both Switzerland and Yugoslavia had concluded that “peace in Europe has been achieved and that there will be no more wars”. He also pledged that Switzerland will “continue to have an active role in aiding Yugoslavia”.

The visit was Leuenberger’s first as Swiss president to the region, and also focused on frozen assets in Swiss banks allegedly containing assets of representatives of the former Milosevic regime.

Leuenberger reiterated that Switzerland was ready to provide legal assistance to Yugoslavia in its corruption investigation into Milosevic. The former president is accused of siphoning off billions of dollars from state coffers and salting away the money in banks abroad, including Switzerland.

In the next few weeks, experts from Belgrade are to be invited to Switzerland by the finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, to discuss technical aspects of legal assistance.

The Swiss authorities have blocked more than 40 accounts, reportedly containing SFr12 million ($7 million). Switzerland is also investigating the transfer of about 270 kilogrammes of gold from Yugoslavia. The international community had imposed trade sanctions against Yugoslavia between 1998 and 1999.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR