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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Serb fury at war crimes charges
Former Chief of Staff Nebojsa Pavkovic
Pavkovic was head of the Yugoslav army
The Serbian Government and the war crimes tribunal were involved in angry exchanges on Tuesday over demands for the extradition of four war crimes suspects, including Serbia's current head of public security.

Belgrade officials insisted there would be no early move to arrest or extradite the four generals, named on Monday in a war crimes indictment from The Hague tribunal.

Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said the indictments violated an informal agreement between the court and Belgrade.

This is a drastic violation of an agreement... No fast action, arrests or extraditions can be expected from us
Zoran Zivkovic
Serbian Prime Minister
But The Hague insisted the four men - including deputy interior minister Sreten Lukic and former Yugoslav army chief General Nebojsa Pavkovic - must be handed over.

"When the tension dies down and the dust settles, they will see they have no option but to proceed and apprehend these men," said deputy prosecutor Graham Blewitt.

The war crimes charges against them include murder, persecution, deportation and inhumane treatment of ethnic Albanians.

The Serbian Government is preparing for a confidence vote and said the timing of the indictments showed a "lack of understanding" of the current situation by chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

Nebojsa Pavkovic: Commander of the 3rd Army covering Kosovo
Vladimir Lazarevic: Commander of Pristina Corps
Vlastimir Djordjevic: chief of Serbian police
Sreten Lukic: head of Kosovo police
"No fast action, arrests or extraditions (of the four) can be expected from us," Mr Zivkovic said.

He said Ms Del Ponte had promised assassinated Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic that there would be no new indictments of this type.

"This is a drastic violation of an agreement which was not legally based but which should have been a (formal) agreement between two serious sides," said Mr Zivkovic.

The vote is being forced by nationalists who accuse the war crimes tribunal of anti-Serb bias.

Ministers are thought to fear a backlash if the four are handed over.

Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic described Mr Lukic as his "right hand man" and the "hero" of a crackdown against organised crime launched earlier this year.

This government has to co-operate with The Hague tribunal, but it also has to protect the fragile stability of the country
Zarko Korac
Serbian minister
"I will respect any decision made by the government, but I will not be the minister who will extradite generals Lukic and Lazarevic to The Hague," he told the BBC.

"It was a huge surprise for us that the indictments were revealed at this moment," said government minister Zarko Korac.

"This government has to co-operate with The Hague tribunal, but it also has to protect the fragile stability of the country."

Justice Minister Vladan Batic described the indictments as "blackmail".

Ms Del Ponte signed the indictments on 22 September but they were made public only yesterday.

Prosecutors denied the Serbian Government's claims of an informal deal with the tribunal that no more "command responsibility" indictments would be issued - in which senior officers are considered responsible for crimes committed by forces under their command.

"No agreement was settled with Mrs Del Ponte," said the chief prosecutor's spokeswoman Florence Hartmann.

The Belgrade government ignored opposition to comply with The Hague's demands for the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Serbia dismisses top army brass
07 Aug 03  |  Europe
Timeline: After Milosevic
01 Oct 03  |  Country profiles
At a glance: Hague tribunal
20 Feb 03  |  Europe

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