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The BBC's Bill Hayton
"The meeting ended with the two sides deeply divided"
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The BBC's Jacky Rowland
"Tribunal officials insist that Mr Milosevic should be extradited to stand trial in the Hague"
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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 00:37 GMT
Belgrade war crimes talks collapse
Vojislav Kostunica and Carla Del Ponte
Mr Kostunica and Mrs Del Ponte met for the first time
Talks between UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica ended abruptly on Tuesday, with the sides unable to agree on how to deal with war crimes suspects at large in Yugoslavia.

The meeting lasted just an hour, and afterwards an angry-looking Mrs Del Ponte walked hastily past reporters, refusing to give a scheduled statement.

A written statement from President Kostunica's office confirmed deep "differences" with the UN prosecutor.

She will tell you if she's angry or not on Thursday

Florence Hartman
Spokeswoman for Mrs Del Ponte
A particular sticking point is what to do with former leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Mrs Del Ponte insists that he must stand trial before the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, while Mr Kostunica argues that he should face a Serbian court.

Turning up the pressure ahead of the meeting, Mrs Del Ponte had presented new arrest warrants for Mr Milosevic.

The tribunal also told Yugoslavia to freeze Mr Milosevic's assets.

Carla Del Ponte leaves meeting with Mr Kostunica
Mrs Del Ponte did not give a statement after the meeting

Yugoslav Central bank officials have accused the Milosevic regime of stealing more than $4bn and siphoning it out of the country in bags of cash marked "citizens' savings."

In his highly critical statement President Kostunica accused the tribunal of wanting to impose "collective guilt on all the Serbs."

He also expressed reservations about the tribunal's policy of sealed or secret indictments and accused the court of being politicised, warning against what he described as "selective justice".

Many Serbs feel that the international court pursues Serb suspects with more vigour than it investigates other groups in the Balkans.

New laws needed

The official position of the tribunal is that suspects should be held individually responsible for their crimes.

Mr Kostunica insisted that new Yugoslav laws would be needed for full co-operation with the tribunal, a stance rejected by Mrs Del Ponte, the statement said.

Mr Kostunica brought up his objections to the problem of secret indictments and the politicised work of the tribunal

Statement from President Kostunica

Mrs Del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, said that the prosecutor would give "a frank" statement about her talks with Mr Kostunica at the end of her Belgrade visit on Thursday.

For Yugoslavia and its reform-minded leadership, much depends on this visit, the first by a UN war crimes prosecutor.

If the Yugoslav Government fails to co-operate with the UN court in The Hague, it is likely to lose international political and financial support garnered after Mr Milosevic's ousting in October.

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Europe
Milosevic trial: Home or away?
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Yugoslavia
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