Western governments encouraging Belgrade to extradite Milosevic
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) – The United States’ European allies are signaling that they do not object to Slobodan Milosevic standing trial in Belgrade as long as it does not preclude him facing justice later before the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
But British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, arriving in Belgrade on Wednesday, underlined that future international aid to Yugoslavia will be linked to its eventually handing over Milosevic and other war crimes suspects to the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
The U.N. war crimes tribunal on Wednesday took an even harder position, pressing for Milosevic’s immediate surrender to The Hague.
”Yugoslavia must comply and must transfer Mr. Milosevic,” said Jean-Jacque Joris, the top political adviser to Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, in the first tribunal news conference since Milosevic’s arrest. ”It must occur immediately.”
Said Cook, ”The people of Serbia are entitled to hear the full truth of his (Milosevic’s) crimes against the Serb people in court.”
”But Milosevic is not above international law either, and the end of the legal process will not be complete until he is handed over to The Hague tribunal for the crimes he had committed against other people in the Balkans.”
”The international community wants to help Serbia, but Serbia must in turn help the international community,” Cook said ahead of talks with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and other senior officials. ”Serbia must fulfill international commitment and surrender Milosevic and others for trial.”
Cook’s comments echoed those made Tuesday in Athens, Greece, by the European Union’s security chief, Javier Solana.
Solana told reporters the Yugoslav leadership was ”doing a very good job in running the country and we are not going to put any pressure on them to do anything because they know what they have to do and they are going to do it.”
Kostunica has ruled out sending Milosevic to The Hague anytime soon, saying the issue was not a priority.
”We are not thinking about extradition now,” Kostunica told reporters Tuesday. ”We are dealing with Milosevic’s responsibility before our own nation and before our own courts.”
Many Serbs distrust the tribunal, claiming it is biased against them because it never indicted leaders of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo for atrocities against Serbs during the Balkan wars of the last decade.
Milosevic was indicted by The Hague court for atrocities committed by Serb troops against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Those atrocities triggered NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.
Since Milosevic was arrested last weekend on financial charges, Yugoslav authorities have stepped up their investigations into other possible criminal complaints against the 59-year-old deposed leader.
Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said Tuesday in Vienna, Austria, that Milosevic may face charges which carry the death penalty, presumably for murders and abductions of political enemies.
The United States, the principal country demanding Milosevic’s extradition, agreed to release $50 million in aid after the arrest.
Milosevic has steadfastly maintained his innocence and is expected to mount a vigorous defense when the case comes to trial. His appeal for immediate release was rejected on Tuesday.
In a statement Monday, Milosevic admitted diverting $390 million worth of Yugoslav dinars and German marks but claimed the money went to bankroll Serb rebels fighting in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina rather than into his personal bank accounts.
That marked the first time Milosevic had publicly acknowledged bankrolling Serb armies in the Bosnian and Croatian wars.
Milosevic surrendered early Sunday after a 26-hour standoff with police at his villa in Belgrade’s Dedinje district.
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