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banner Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Cook calls on Milosevic to go
Robin Cook
Cook: "New era in the Balkans"
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has again called on Slobodan Milosevic to accept defeat in the Yugoslav presidential election.

So far, both sides are claiming victory, though the official results have not been declared.


The only person who does not seem to know he is lost is Milosevic himself

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook

Mr Cook told the Labour Party Conference in Brighton that the Yugoslav leader could not stay in office: "We are on the verge of a new era for the Balkans. One that puts the politics of hate into history.

"Even Milosevic cannot conceal a defeat on this scale," Mr Cook said, to loud applause.

The foreign secretary said the opposition was ahead by 20% in two thirds of the polling stations where ballots had been counted, and even the army and police had voted against the incumbent.

"The only person who does not seem to know he is lost is Milosevic himself," Mr Cook said.

Clear message

"Let's give Milosevic a clear message while he is trying to decide who won. Don't rob your people of their vote for change. Accept their verdict and go."

Meanwhile, France, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, has called for international sanctions against Yugoslavia to be lifted.

The French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, said he was asking the European Commission to work for a "quick end to sanctions", saying "it now seems indisputable that Slobodan Milosevic has lost".

Russia also called for sanctions to be lifted, regardless of whoever is eventually declared the winner of the election.

Attack

In his speech, Mr Cook attacked the Conservatives, saying that if Tory governments had stood up to ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia years ago, Mr Milosevic would now be long gone.

The foreign secretary said the government wanted to tackle the causes of conflict in the world.

He pledged support for an international scheme that would offer aid to poor countries in return for the surrender of firearms.

"The self-loading rifle has become the modern weapon of mass destruction. We will support an international arms amnesty fund to offer development in return for the surrender of firearms," he said.

In recent months the government has been criticised by campaigners against the arms trade who have claimed Mr Cook's so-called ethical foreign policy has fallen by the wayside.

Full agenda

But Mr Cook told delegates that the government would have a full agenda on world issues in the next parliament.

He said it would propose new rules to tackle the spread of missile technology and would work to extend the code of conduct on arms sales to central Europe and north America.

In addition, Mr Cook said the government would work to get an international criminal court up and running.

"Never again will brutal dictators be able to commit crimes against humanity," he said, "knowing that there is no court to hold them to account."

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See also:

25 Sep 00 | Europe
Analysis: Milosevic's options
19 Sep 00 | Europe
Milosevic: Serbia's strongman
Links to more Labour stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more Labour stories