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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 16:26 GMT
Milosevic blasts Nato's 'lies'
Slobodan Milosevic as he defends himself at the war crimes tribunal
Milosevic ridiculed the prosecution case
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has hit back at his accusers, saying Nato had justified its bombing of Yugoslavia with an "ocean of lies".

During a robust defence at his war crimes trial in The Hague, he denied that Serb forces had committed atrocities against Kosovo Albanians in 1999.

The army and police defended their own country with honour and chivalry

Slobodan Milosevic
All he had done during the Kosovo conflict, he said, had been to fight terrorism in his own country - just as the US had done "on the other side of the world".

In a speech lasting more than four hours and dripping with anger and sarcasm, Mr Milosevic tried to portray the proceedings as the trial of all of Serbia and all Serbs who supported him.

"The whole world knows this is a political trial," he told the court, saying he was pitted against an enormous apparatus and a vast media structure, with only a public telephone in prison to conduct his defence.

Click here for extracts of Milosevic defence

"You want me to swim a 100-metre race with my legs and hands tied," he said.

Mr Milosevic was responding to the prosecution case against him, presented during the first two days of the trial.

He is expected to continue his opening statement on Friday.

International law expert Avril McDonald said that although Mr Milosevic's strategy seemed to be to question the legitimacy of the court and make political points, he did not directly respond to the indictments against him.

'Greater Serbia'

The former Yugoslav leader is accused of orchestrating a systematic campaign of mass murders, deportations and rapes as part of a plan to create an ethnically pure Serb state out of the ruins of former Yugoslavia.

Milosevic charges
  • Genocide
  • Crimes against humanity
  • Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions
  • Violations of the laws or customs of war

    Click here for a full list of charges

  • He is the first former head of state to be indicted before an international tribunal, where he is charged with genocide in Bosnia and other crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo.

    Mr Milosevic said that Serbia - rather than trying to drive out other ethnic groups - had in fact been the most ethnically tolerant state in former Yugoslavia.

    He argued that ethnic Albanians in Kosovo had not been forced out by Serb forces - but fled Nato bombing and attacks by rebels from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

    Mr Milosevic showed a German documentary which cast doubt on the 1999 massacre of about 45 ethnic Albanians by Serb forces in the Kosovan village of Racak - an incident that helped trigger Nato intervention.

    Nato's 'crimes'

    He argued that alleged mass killings were in fact clashes with terrorists.

    "The army and police defended their own country with honour and chivalry."

    Denouncing "Nato's crimes", Mr Milosevic showed graphic pictures of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo killed during a bombing raid by the Western military alliance.

    He concentrated mainly on Kosovo, but said Serbia had not started the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. He said he knew nothing about violence committed there against non-Serbs.

    Copies of the weekly Vreme on a Belgrade newsstand
    Following the former leader's fate
    The BBC's Paul Anderson in Belgrade says much in Mr Milosevic's opening address will have rung true with the Serbian people.

    Many view the iron fist with which Serb forces acted against Kosovo's Albanians as a legitimate fight against an internal terrorist threat.

    But our correspondent says Mr Milosevic's claim that he strove to preserve an ethnically harmonious Yugoslavia in the early 1990s stretches all credulity, as does his description of a free and independent Serb media while he was in power.

    Mr Milosevic rejects the legality of the UN tribunal and has refused to appoint lawyers to defend him in what is being described as the most important war crimes trial since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

    The BBC's Justin Webb
    "He made some cogent points in response to specific allegations"
    Prof Paul Williams helped establish the tribunal
    "He wants to go down as the great man of Serbia"
    Balkans historian Tim Judah
    "Instead of addressing specific charges, he has gone on the attack"
    See also:

    14 Feb 02 | Europe
    Kosovo glee at Milosevic plight
    12 Feb 02 | Europe
    Serbs stop work to watch trial
    11 Feb 02 | Europe
    Milosevic allies still at large
    12 Feb 02 | Europe
    Profile: Carla Del Ponte
    01 Feb 01 | Europe
    UN stands by Milosevic indictment
    15 Apr 99 | Europe
    Fog of war shrouds refugee deaths
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