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Milosevic assets on agenda of Swiss President's visit to Yugoslavia

Moritz Leuenberger (left) is to discuss frozen Yugoslav assets with Vojislav Kostunica swissinfo.ch

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, has been holding talks with his Yugoslav counterpart, Vojislav Kostunica, in Belgrade. Among other issues, they discussed assets frozen in Switzerland, which are thought belong to the ousted Milosevic regime.

This content was published on April 26, 2001 - 12:43

Officials said Leuenberger's visit to Belgrade was aimed at boosting the transition to democracy in the Yugoslav Federation. The Swiss government stepped up bilateral ties following the collapse of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic last October.

The talks between Leuenberger and his Yugoslav counterpart, Vojislav Kostunica, are expected to focus on frozen assets in Swiss banks allegedly containing assets of representatives of the former Yugoslav regime.

The Swiss authorities have blocked more than 40 accounts, reportedly containing SFr12 million ($7 million). Milosevic is accused of siphoning off billions of dollars from state coffers and salting away the money in banks abroad, including Switzerland.

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.

The Yugoslav authorities have criticised Switzerland for not providing information on the frozen accounts and the gold shipments, but the Swiss government is insisting that Belgrade submit a formal request for legal assistance in both cases.

Leuenberger is also likely to raise the issue of war crimes, and the extradition of Milosevic to International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Its prosecutor, Switzerland's Carla Del Ponte, has repeatedly called on Yugoslavia to hand over Milosevic for trial.

Also on the agenda are talks on financial issues. Switzerland represents Yugoslavia at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Following his visit to Belgrade, Leuenberger will travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina for talks with government officials, before visiting a Swiss-funded humanitarian project.

He is also due to open an exposition of the Swiss photographer, Werner Bischof, as part of Swiss/Bosnian cultural exchange programmes.

Switzerland's involvement in Bosnia has shifted from purely humanitarian aid during the height of the ethnic conflict in the first half of the 1990s to a variety of programmes to help rebuild civil society in Bosnia.

Following the Dayton agreement in 1995, which officially marked the end of the conflict in Bosnia, Switzerland committed more than SFr50 million ($30 million) for social and economic reconstruction in the region.

by Urs Geiser

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