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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 14:21 GMT
Serbian ex-president denies war crimes
Milan Milutinovic
Milutinovic surrendered to the court last week
Former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic has pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity, in his first appearance at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Ethnic Albanian woman fleeing Kosovo
Milutinovic is accused of crimes against Albanians
Mr Milutinovic was indicted along with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic three years ago on charges of war crimes allegedly committed during the conflict in Kosovo.

Prosecutors say Mr Milutinovic had formal control of Serb forces who killed hundreds of ethnic Albanians in the province and expelled tens of thousands from their homes.

Mr Milutinovic, aged 60, argues that as Serbian president, he had little real power.

'Voluntary surrender'

Dressed in a dark suit and striped shirt, he denied four counts of crimes against humanity - including murder, deportation and persecutions - and one charge of war crimes.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, The Netherlands
The war crimes tribunal has been pressing for Milutinovic's surrender
Mr Milutinovic was a close ally of Mr Milosevic, who returned to court on Monday to face charges including genocide after a two-week break to get over a bout of flu.

The court heard evidence from a former Croatian Defence Minister, Petar Kriste, who said that Mr Milosevic and other Serb nationalists were determined to "push the borders of Serbia further to the West so that all the Serbs would be living in a single state."

Mr Milosevic's ill health has led to nearly two months of postponements since his trial began in February.

Mr Milutinovic surrendered voluntarily to the tribunal last week after his term of office expired and he lost immunity from prosecution.

However, it is unclear whether the court will grant a request from Serbia to allow Mr Milutinovic, who has a heart condition, to return to Belgrade pending his trial.

'No power'

Mr Milutinovic was the last member of Mr Milosevic's inner circle to leave office - his term as president ended on 29 December.

After Mr Milosevic was toppled in October 2000, he offered to co-operate with the new authorities.

Serbian television said the Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, had signed a letter for Mr Milutinovic explaining the support he had given the Serbian Government over the past two years.

Prosecutors say Mr Milutinovic, who was elected president of Serbia in 1997, is one of those ultimately responsible for atrocities committed by Serb forces in Kosovo.

But Mr Milutinovic says he knew little of what was going on and had no power over Serbian troops or police.

Serbia had been under pressure from the UN tribunal to arrest Mr Milutinovic after he was indicted in 1999.

But Serbian authorities refused to act against Mr Milutinovic while he was in power, saying that to do so would degrade the office of president.

Apart from Mr Milosevic, two other co-indictees - former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and ex-army chief Dragoljub Ojdanic - have pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

Key stories

Srebrenica massacre



See also:

16 Jan 03 | Europe
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