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U.S. follows EC lead, recalls ambassador from Belgrade


WASHINGTON -- The United States, following the European Community, recalled its ambassador from Belgrade yesterday in light of Serbian aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina, the State Department announced.

The action, part of an escalating campaign to isolate Serbia, coincided with a move by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to block Serbian participation, at least until June 30, in any CSCE decision involving what was formerly Yugoslavia.

Both steps were compromises. Avoiding a complete diplomatic break, the United States will continue to be represented in Belgrade by Robert Rachmales, deputy chief of mission, after Ambassador Warren Zimmerman returns here.

The Bush administration is likely to reduce embassy staff further, both as an additional signal of displeasure and to redistribute its envoys among other former Yugoslav republics, a U.S. official said.

Even withdrawing Mr. Zimmerman poses problems: At least until recently, he retained surprisingly good access to the Serbian leadership and to Serbian opposition groups, and thus was able to communicate U.S. views directly. He also was working on emergency relief for civilians in Bosnia.

The CSCE action fell short of what the United States and most European Community members favored, which was suspension of Serbia from all CSCE proceedings.

The compromise came largely because of strong Russian objections to the tougher stand. But it marked the first time the CSCE had acted without consensus of all 52 members.

State Department spokeswoman Margaret D. Tutwiler said the United States "strongly endorses" Monday's EC declaration. Among other things, the declaration said the EC would pursue "the increasing isolation of Yugoslav delegations in international fora."

Serbian delegates are likely to be barred from an upcoming meeting of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. Their participation in other international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, hasn't been addressed, as Europeans wrestle with the question of what constitutes the successor state to Yugoslavia.

The United States is wary of a credentials fight against Serbia at the United Nations, fearing that it could open up a renewed challenge against Israel's membership.

Ms. Tutwiler said intense street-to-street fighting continued in Sarajevo, along with heavy and indiscriminate shelling.

Another official said that barring a lasting cease-fire, Sarajevo probably would be unable to withstand the Serbian assault for more than a few days. "It's hard to be optimistic that they're going to hold out very long."

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