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Wednesday, March 24, 1999 Published at 16:19 GMT


Milosevic's statement: 'Defend the country'

Serbian radio has broadcast a statement by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic:

"Dear citizens, I believe that the National Assembly acted completely properly when it decided not to accept the presence of foreign troops on our territory," Milosevic said on Wednesday.

"The National Assembly made this decision unanimously, which illustrates the unity of all the citizens of our country and their united commitment to independence and freedom and free development of our state and all its citizens.

"This was not only about Kosovo, although Kosovo itself is of great importance for us.This was a question of the freedom of our entire country, and Kosovo would have been only the door through which foreign troops should have come in and brought into question these exact great values.

"They chose that door because they assumed that the Albanian separatist movement would stand guard on them and not the Yugoslav Army and the citizens of this country in general, and that our country would have thus very soon lost its independence and freedom.

Peaceful solution

"The only correct decision that could have been made was the one to reject foreign troops on our territory.

"However, despite this, we want to continue our persistent efforts towards a peaceful solution of the problem in Kosovo and Metohija.

"We sincerely believe that long-term the problems in Kosovo and Metohija can be resolved only through peace and political means.

"At the same time we insist on the key issue, which was the issue our delegation promoted in Rambouillet and the issue we all promoted in our contacts with the representatives of the international community.

"This key issue is our commitment to the equality of all the ethnic communities.

"Any political agreement that provides for the equality of all the ethnic communities in Kosovo and Metohija - the Albanians, the Serbs and Montenegrins, and Muslims, Turks, Gorani, Romanies and Egyptians - will have a chance to succeed and stabilize our southern province, to ensure peace and stability in the entire country.

"In our efforts to achieve a political agreement and to continue the peace process, we will persist in such a commitment.

Everyone has a job to do

"In that sense I would like to stress that I fully support the activities of our delegation in Rambouillet in Paris, and the activities by President Milutinovic and their views on these key issues on which the future of Kosovo and Metohija depend and, I would add, the future of all of Serbia since this is an issue that concerns the entire country and not just Kosovo and Metohija, regardless of how important it is for us and regardless of how much it really means to all the citizens of our country in general.

"At this point, when we are facing threats and the danger of Nato attacks, everyone should do their job.

"All the citizens will contribute to the defence of the country if they are successfully carrying out their regular jobs in production, in the health service, in education, in the cultural institutions - that is the best way they can help the state defence forces, the Yugoslav Army, and the forces of the Interior Ministry in carrying out their task in the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

"Therefore, we are committed to two main things: to continuing the political process with all the persistence possible as I believe that truth and justice are on our side, but also to defending the country with all the means to the extent it is attacked.

"We should all give our full contribution to this, particularly through our work. Thank you."

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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