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Hague Trial for Milosevic in Doubt

BY Admin  April 3, 2001 at 12:30 PM EST

Extraditing Milosevic to the Hague “should never happen,” President Vojislav Kostunica told The New York Times on Tuesday. “It’s not legitimate… the prevailing view is it shouldn’t happen.”

World leaders, including US President George Bush, yesterday hailed the arrest of Milosevic on domestic corruption charges as an important first step on the road to the Hague, but did not insist on extradition as a formal condition for $50 million in promised aid.

Now, with Milosevic in a Belgrade prison for at least 30 days, there is reportedly little consensus within Yugoslavia on whether he should be held accountable to an international tribunal for war crimes charges, including the killings of thousands of Kosovar Albanians in 1999.

Officials at the Hague, however, reiterated their demand that Milosevic be extradited, although they said a local trial could be concluded first.

“Regardless of what president [Kostunica] may say today, the obligation to transfer [Milosevic to the tribunal] is non-negotiable,” Hague adviser Jean-Jacques Joris said in an interview with Reuters. He said Kostunica must show “a firm and unequivocal commitment.”

Kostunica, who defeated Milosevic in elections last October, claims the Hague tribunal is biased against Serbs and suggested that Milosevic could be tried for war crimes in a domestic court instead.

Today, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic told The Boston Globe that Milosevic will be charged within two months with ordering the assassination of at least three political enemies, in addition to the tax evasion and corruption charges pending against him.

Milosevic yesterday pleaded not guilty to all charges. A judge today denied his request for bail.