Athens, Greece (CNSNews.com) - The United States and NATO were jointly responsible for "one of the most blatant examples of violence against a people in the second half of the 20th century," Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said Monday.
Opening a rebuilt railway bridge across the Danube River in the northern Yugoslav city of Novi Sad, Milosevic said NATO's "aggression" had resulted in "the only war in Europe after World War II."
The Novi Sad bridge was destroyed during last year's 78-day NATO campaign against Milosevic's regime, which had been blamed for atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.
"The nature of the war was really unusual. Quite unique, " the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug quoted Milosevic as telling a crowd of tens of thousands of cheering supporters.
"The war was waged by the biggest and strongest European countries, under the command of a non-European country, the United States, the most powerful country of our time, against a rather small European country, exhausted by years of economic sanctions imposed by those countries."
He said NATO declared the war "because the sanctions did not produce the amount of suffering necessary to lose the will to fight and to extinguish the love for freedom."
Despite hardships caused by the bombing and the sanctions, he said, Yugoslavia had managed to rebuild itself in less than a year. He conceded that many damaged buildings, including homes, school, churches and hospitals, still needed repair.
"[We] prevailed over our enemies not because we are stronger, but because we are better. We built our country with a lot of love, with a lot of knowledge and a lot of work.
"If there is something ... Europe should be proud of in the year 2000, that is the rebuilding of Serbia. But if there is something ... Europe should be ashamed of in the year 1999, that is the devastation of Serbia," Milosevic said.
Milosevic remarks were echoed by senior Serbian Socialist Party figure Nikola Sainovic, who told a press conference in Belgrade that the rebuilding and development achievements were unnerving the U.S. - "the biggest sponsor of the Yugoslav crisis."
Sainovic said Yugoslav industrial production last month had been 48.8 per cent greater than during April last year.
Even as Milosevic condemned the West and lauded what he saw as Yugoslavia's achievements, his government continued its crackdown on dissidents, with police rounding up of dozens of members of the popular anti-government student group Otpor ("Resistance").
Belgrade has voiced suspicions that members of opposition groups are being funded by Western governments in order to overthrow Milosevic.
The latest spate of repression also saw the government shutting down news media critical of the regime.
That move in turn prompted renewed street protests, spearheaded by Otpor. Over the weekend some 15,000 people attended a rally in Belgrade demanding that Milosevic resign.
This week members of Yugoslav opposition parties are in Moscow to appeal to Russian officials to end their support for Milosevic and persuade him to hold immediate elections.
"Constitutional rights have been trampled in Serbia, the opposition's right to exist has been endangered, there is no free university, independent media, or freedom of expression, but there is open dictatorship over the people," the independent Yugoslav news agency Beta quoted Serbian Renewal Movement president Vuk Draskovic as saying.
Draskovic said he told the leadership of a parliamentary foreign policy committee about the recent state takeover of the opposition Studio B television and "that there is not a single independent radio or television station in Belgrade today."
Democratic Party of Serbia president Vojislav Kostunica said the opposition leaders had received Russian support for democracy in Serbia.
They also met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandar Ivanyenko.