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The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"The Yugoslav government has no plans to hand him over to the UN tribunal in the Hague"
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Serbian deputy prime minister, Jarko Korac
"He brought misery to so many people"
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The Socialist Party's Branislav Ivkovic:
Speaking to reporters outside the home of Slobodan Milosevic
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Liberal Democrat, Menzies Campbell
"This may turn out to be a seminal moment in the history of the Balkans"
 real 28k

Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 00:06 GMT 01:06 UK
Yugoslav police arrest Milosevic
Milosevic supporters block police vehicles
Milosevic supporters blocked approaching police vehicles
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic - the man at the centre of nearly 10 years of war and conflict in the Balkans - has been arrested, government sources said.

The arrest came after a dramatic stand-off outside the former president's villa between members of the security forces and his die-hard supporters.

Belgrade residents outside justice ministry buildings
Excited onlookers watch a motorcade said to be carrying Mr Milosevic
Mr Milosevic is wanted on war crimes charges by The Hague tribunal, but the Yugoslav Government has so far been unwilling to take action against him.

It is not clear what charges he might face in Yugoslavia, but he has been investigated for a range of alleged offences including smuggling state assets and involvement in assassinations.

Mr Milosevic may have been released late Friday night after being taken to the Palace of Justice building in central Belgrade. He then greeted supporters waiting outside his residence.

We can only hope that this is the first step towards bringing him to justice

Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac confirmed Mr Milosevic's arrest but said there would be no official announcement until later on Saturday.

The developments come a day before a US deadline for the government to detain the former president or risk losing American economic assistance and loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Eight of Mr Milosevic's aides - including his party deputy and a senior secret police official - were arrested earlier this week in an apparent show of resolve by the authorities.

Sipping coffee

Local media reports said that the police had spent time inside Mr Milosevic's villa, negotiating his peaceful surrender, while his supporters were demonstrating outside.

I'm just drinking coffee with my friends and I am very well

Slobodan Milosevic on Radio B92
No one in the crowd outside saw Mr Milosevic leave, but a convoy of jeeps was seen entering and leaving the justice department buildings, some of the vehicles with blacked-out windows.

The smiling former president did not say anything as he appeared before his supporters just after midnight (2200 GMT) but he later made a statement on Belgrade's B92 radio.

"I'm just drinking coffee with my friends and I am very well," he said. "A large number of citizens gathered outside the house who have our people and national dignity at heart. We are very proud to see such a mood."

Ex-Yugoslav President Milosevic greeting supporters after arrest`
Mr Milosevic greeted supporters - apparently after returning from court
As the events in Belgrade were reported, a number of international leaders welcomed the news that action was being taken against Mr Milosevic.

"We have seen the news reports from Belgrade saying that Milosevic has been arrested and we can only hope that this is the first step towards bringing him to justice," said a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Fear of bloodshed

Local media reported earlier on Friday that an arrest warrant had been issued, but that the police were afraid to take action for fear of bloodshed.

Milosevic supporters outside his house
Milosevic supporters kept up a vigil all evening
But earlier on Friday Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said that Belgrade would not accede to tomorrow's US deadline for extraditing Mr Milosevic to International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Speaking on Serbian radio, Mr Zivkovic said: "There are currently no legal conditions for his extradition, and this is clear."

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Serbia's State Security had attempted to replace Mr Milosevic's bodyguards on Friday, but that the former president had refused to accept the change.

Yugoslavia has pledged to try Mr Milosevic in the country, rather than handing him over to the ICTY.

At present, Yugoslav law prevents the extradition of its nationals to a foreign country.

Parliament is preparing a new law that would allow Mr Milosevic to be extradited, but it is not expected to be enacted for another month.

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See also:

07 Jun 00 | Europe
Nato accused of war crimes
27 Mar 01 | Europe
Milosevic allies arrested
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