Milosevic says he will call Clinton and other world leaders to testify in war crimes trial

Friday, February 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Heatedly rejecting charges of mass murder and deportations, Slobodan Milosevic said Friday he will call former President Clinton and a host of world leaders to testify that he was the man who brought peace to the Balkans.

After an exhaustive two-day narrative to the U.N. war crimes tribunal, the lines of the former Yugoslav president's defense were clear: he is the victim, not the villain, and his judges and Western governments are conspirators in crimes against the Serbs.

Milosevic said that among those he intends to summon are Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and leaders from Germany and Italy.

``I am going to use my right to request the examination and cross-examination of witnesses who were direct actors in all the events,'' Milosevic said, referring to his meetings with Western leaders during the 1991-1999 wars in the Balkans.

The court said Milosevic has the right to call witnesses in his defense against the charges of genocide in Bosnia and crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo. But he must satisfy the court that they are relevant to his defense before it will issue the subpoenas.

The judges would issue the summons to the government of the potential witness, and it would be up to that country to serve the subpoena and ensure that it was complied with, say court officials. In the case of a refusal, the court could ultimately notify the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose international sanctions on countries.

At a news conference in Rome, Blair said, ``The tactics of Mr. Milosevic are very obvious.'' Blair declined to comment on Milosevic's demand that he testify, saying he did not want to comment on a trial in progress.

Milosevic, 60, could face life imprisonment if convicted of any of 66 charges against him in what is seen as the most important war crimes trial since World War II. He is the first head of state to be charged with war crimes while in power.

Milosevic recalled that he was praised as a peacemaker when he signed _ under Clinton's pressure _ the 1995 Dayton peace accord, which ended the Bosnian war. Four years later, he was indicted for war crimes for his bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians in the Serb province of Kosovo. At that time, NATO was in the midst of a 78-day campaign of airstrikes to force Serb troops to leave Kosovo.

``How is it that I had overall support in '95, '96 and '97 and now, a whole decade later, I become the object of charges none other than genocide?'' in Bosnia in 1992, Milosevic said. He spoke in Serbian throughout his presentation.

Sitting alone at the defendant's table, he pulled a stack of grim photos from a red and blue Socialist Party folder that had his picture on the front, and gave them to a clerk to show on the desktop monitors in the courtroom.

His tone was alternately angry and sorrowful as he narrated the shots of razed Serbian villages and tattered human corpses, accusing NATO of the destruction of villages during the bombing campaign.

His performance drew a sharp reaction from the government in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, which extradited him to The Hague last June for trial.

``It is outrageous that Milosevic displays photographs of mutilated bodies of victims of NATO's bombing campaign, people for whose tragedy he himself is responsible,'' said Yugoslavia's information minister, Slobodan Orlic.

Milosevic dismissed as ``a plain forgery'' video footage shown earlier of starving Bosnian Muslims at the Trnopolje prison camp in 1992. He said the footage _ shot by independent news agencies _ actually showed Muslims hiding in the safety of a chicken farm, and that there was no barbed wire or Bosnian Serb guards.

The prosecution says thousands of detainees were starved, beaten, sexually assaulted and tortured at the Trnopolje, Omarska and Keraterm detention centers in eastern Bosnia. Many were murdered and their bodies hauled off to be buried in mass graves.

The prosecutors say the prison camps were part of Milosevic's wider campaign to rid large portions of Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo of non-Serb populations and create a ``greater Serb'' state.