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Friday, March 26, 1999 Published at 13:43 GMT

World: Europe

Arkan back in Belgrade

Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan: "An honour for us even to die"

The Serb guerrilla leader Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan - whose Tiger commandos took part in some of the worst massacres in recent Balkan conflicts - has put his men at the disposal of the Yugoslav Army and of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Kosovo: Special Report
According to the UK Defence Secretary George Robertson, the paramilitary leader's private militia, more formally known as the Serbian Volunteer Guard, has been remobilised.

Mr Raznatovic told Jagodina's Palma Plus TV: "A large number of people have volunteered to defend Kosmet [Kosovo] and we will have a first meeting in Belgrade tomorrow to choose people with military experience so that they can immediately join the army or police.

"We are all as one in the defence of Kosmet. It will be an honour for us even to die for our people and our country," he added.

Mr Robertson said Zeljko Arkan had been in Belgrade with his followers "touting their wares".

He called on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to come back to the negotiating table in order to bring the crisis to a peaceful solution.

"He can call his uniformed thugs back to Belgrade with one telephone call and he should so do," said Mr Robertson.

Tiger terror

The Tiger troops took part in the brutal three-month siege of the Croatian city of Vukovar in 1991 and helped the Bosnian Serbs overrun northern and eastern Bosnia a year later.

Zeljko Arkan was one of the first perpetrators of "ethnic cleansing" of ethnic minorities in that area.

After the Bosnian war ended in 1995, he turned to business and now owns a soccer club in Belgrade.

Observers allege that the Serbian Ministry of the Interior Police (MUP) is backed by a number of unofficial commando units, among them the Tiger commandos.

"There can be no question that the MUP are a well organised bunch of thugs allied to the regular forces," said Phillip Mitchell, ground forces expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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