With Milosevic in jail, U.S. aid will continue | TahoeDailyTribune.com

With Milosevic in jail, U.S. aid will continue


WASHINGTON (AP) – Secretary of State Colin Powell is ready to announce that Yugoslavia, after arresting former President Slobodan Milosevic, qualifies for $50 million in U.S. assistance, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

But the certification, expected to be announced later in the day, will be qualified, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press. The United States will withhold support for calling a conference this summer of donor nations to help the Balkan country’s embattled economy, the official said.

The Serbian government arrested not only Milosevic but also two other officials accused of war crimes who face prosecution by an international tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands.

And yet, the government of Vojislav Kostunica, which supplanted Milosevic’s authoritarian rule, has indicated Milosevic will be tried in Yugoslavia on charges of corruption – not war crimes.

Milosevic was arrested at dawn Sunday after a tense 26-hour standoff, and taken to Belgrade Central Prison, where he was ordered held for 30 days while officials prepare evidence for charges of corruption and abuse of power during his 13-year rule.

President Bush welcomed the arrest and said it ”should be a first step toward trying him for the crimes against humanity with which he is charged.”

At the same time, the president hinted the administration was prepared to certify Yugoslavia for the assistance which Congress ordered cut off if the new government did not cooperating with the Hague tribunal and meeting other conditions by last Saturday.

Yugoslav authorities have held it is not possible to extradite Milosevic before an extradition law now pending before Congress is passed. The international tribunal is viewed in Yugoslavia as biased against the Serbs, but Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Fox News Sunday that he doubted the government had the ”infrastructure… to put on a fair and free trial,” and aid should be cut off until Milosevic is handed over.

Congress has sought bringing the Serb leader, who led his country into disastrous wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, with international crimes.

Congress insisted the Serb leader, who led his country into disastrous wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, be brought to trial for international crimes before Yugoslavia receives more U.S. aid.

The U.S. official said the Kostunica government is being credited by the Bush administration with taking steps to improve human rights in Yugoslavia and collecting evidence of war crimes for the tribunal’s use. This, he said, showed a ”significant degree” of compliance with Congress’ demand – but not enough for the administration to go all the way and arrange the conference of donor nations.

Saturday night was the deadline for certification that Yugoslav was complying with terms of the law.

It remained unclear whether the Belgrade government would turn Milosevic over for an international trial. The law does not require Yugoslavia to transfer Milosevic to The Hague for trial as a condition for certification. Rather, it seeks cooperation with the tribunal as well as respect for minority rights and the rule of law.

Yugoslav officials said he first would be tried at home for ruining the country.

The Bush administration does not want to undercut the pro-Western democracy that has taken hold in Yugoslavia after more than a decade of rule by Milosevic, who was deposed last fall.

In a statement released Sunday, Bush made no direct reference to the aid issue, but did say the Yugoslav government and people ”can count on the friendship of the United States as they continue down the path of democratic and economic reform.”

”His arrest represents an important step in bringing to a close the tragic era of his brutal dictatorship,” Bush said. ”Milosevic’s arrest should be a first step toward trying him for the crimes against humanity with which he is charged,” Bush said.

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