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Published: Saturday, 12/9/2000

Voinovich plans journey to his Serb roots


WASHINGTON - Sen. George Voinovich (R., O.), who traces his ancestry to Serbia and Slovenia and who has criticized U.S. policy in the Balkans, is making plans for his first trip to Serbia.

Mr. Voinovich announced yesterday that he will go to Belgrade in late December as part of a congressional delegation that hopes to meet with Vojislav Kostunica, the newly elected president of Serbia.

Mr. Voinovich said he vowed never to visit “a Serbia led by Communist dictator Slobodan Milosevic,'' who lost his bid for re-election this fall but says he will continue to be involved in Serbian politics. Mr. Voinovich's office said he is traveling with other members of Congress “to study democratic progress and stability in the region.''

Mr. Voinovich said, “When the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church invited me to visit Serbia several years ago, I told him I wanted to come very much, but that I would do it only when I could walk on free Serbian soil.

“This trip will be very meaningful to me, of course, but it also will be an important opportunity to see inside Serbia and study its progress after Milosevic's fall from power.''

The delegation, which leaves Dec. 29 and returns Jan. 9, will meet with American troops stationed in Tuzla, Bosnia, and will travel to the Middle East and southern Asia.

Mr. Voinovich was sharply critical of the U.S.-led bombing campaign last year in Yugoslavia aimed at forcing Serbian troops from Kosovo.

Throughout the airstrikes, Mr. Voinovich repeatedly demanded a negotiated settlement with Mr. Milosevic.

Although he has never visited Serbia, Mr. Voinovich traveled at taxpayer expense to the region twice this year. In February he went to Kosovo, Macedonia, and Croatia, and in July he went to Kosovo and Croatia.

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