Milan Panic, the Orange County businessman who is now Yugoslavia's prime minister, expressed satisfaction Tuesday with results of a visit here despite his apparent failure to win any concrete promises of assistance from China.
Speaking at a news conference in the Great Hall of the People, Panic said that in a meeting Monday with Chinese Premier Li Peng, he requested "humanitarian" oil shipments from China "for heating for our hospitals, for our children, for our homes." Panic said he was told the request "will be looked (at) very favorably."
A United Nations-imposed embargo has led to fuel shortages in Yugoslavia, and the government has expressed growing concern about the coming winter. By describing oil imports as humanitarian, Panic was seeking a way around the embargo for at least some fuel. Panic said China expressed willingness to supply humanitarian aid but made no specific promise to sell oil.
Chinese leaders also expressed support for Yugoslavia's keeping its seat in the United Nations, Panic said. He added, however, that they did not promise to use China's veto power to block an effort launched Tuesday to expel Yugoslavia from the world organization.
The current Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is composed only of Serbia and Montenegro. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, all of which were part of Yugoslavia, have declared their independence. Serbia has been widely criticized as holding major responsibility for the violence that has torn Bosnia-Herzegovina in recent months.
Panic, who assumed the office of prime minister in July, downplayed the importance of the battle over the U.N. seat. He expressed confidence that if Yugoslavia is expelled, it will eventually rejoin.
"I personally really don't care," he said. "I want the old Yugoslavia to stop. I want a new Yugoslavia. . . . (But) I think the process of peace will be slowed down if they make administrative problems for us. We will be members of the United Nations. It is a question of when and how. Maybe immediately, maybe a little later.
"It is a punishment against the old government, really, what they are doing to us, I think. And I am a little tired of it. We are making all steps, and all changes necessary. There is no need anymore of punishing the old government."
Panic said that he is optimistic about peace talks that are tentatively scheduled to begin Friday in Geneva between the warring factions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that he hopes to attend.
"I think there is no question that Serbs are now prepared to give up territory and silence the guns and negotiate with Muslims and Croats," he said. "My position is that they all were guilty."
Panic, who emigrated from Yugoslavia to the United States in 1956, said he retains his U.S. citizenship and a home in Pasadena.
"There is agreement between the Yugoslav and American governments that I can retain American citizenship," he explained. "So, for our people interested in America, I will be voting for a President of America."
Panic said he has taken a leave of absence from his Costa Mesa-based company, ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc., which he founded in 1960. The company now has sales of more than $300 million a year, according to material distributed at the news conference.
"I enjoy the American political system, which I am trying to now somehow transfer to Yugoslavia--not with great success. But I think I'm having considerable success because it is generally thought that the system of America is one of the best systems," he said. "Not perfect, by any means, because we have plenty of problems. But . . . Americans pride themselves that it is still the best system overall."
Panic said his U.S. citizenship and strong ties to the United States are an important asset in his political work for Yugoslavia.
"I think it should help, because it is easier to talk to somebody like myself in Yugoslavia," he said. "I think for our government of Yugoslavia, it is beneficial to have a man who understands how American politics works."
Panic claimed that he knows "almost all of America's leading politicians personally."
"I am certain that there is a degree of trust that I will do what I promise," he said.
"Fortunately for me, Yugoslavs are for peace," he added. "I have enormous support in Yugoslavia, not because of Milan Panic who came from California, but because people are tired of fighting. . . . Very soon I'm going to try to put together a United States of Balkans. It's another of my dreams."