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The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Belgrade
"Mr Milosevic says he won't be taken alive"
 real 56k

Serbian deputy prime minister, Jarko Korac
"He brought misery to so many people"
 real 28k

The BBC's Fergus Nicholl
"It was a confused night"
 real 28k

Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Stand-off over Milosevic arrest
Police clamber through a broken window at the Milosevic residence
Special forces try to force their way into Milosevic's home
Yugoslav riot police are laying siege to the residence of Slobodan Milosevic in an attempt to bring the former president to justice.

Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic told a news conference in Belgrade that Mr Milosevic was under house arrest and would remain so until he agreed to appear before an investigating magistrate.

As it happened
Fri 1800 GMT:
Serb media report Milosevic's arrest
2200 GMT:
Milosevic addresses supporters
Midnight GMT:
Police storm villa
Sat 0430 GMT:
Riot police clear area round villa

As the tense negotiations continued, Mr Milosevic is reported to have insisted he would "not go to jail alive".

The interior minister's statement followed a night of drama and confusion, during which police special forces attempted to storm the building, but were driven back by members of Mr Milosevic's bodyguard with support from some members of the army.

Mr Mihajlovic confirmed reports of a rift between the police and soldiers who guard the compound.

He said the army was obeying people close to Mr Milosevic, and accused one unnamed army general of failing to carry out his duty.

'I won't go'

The Serb minister said Mr Milosevic's refusal to accept the arrest order led to an armed confrontation as the police failed to gain entry to his villa.

Ex-Yugoslav President Milosevic greeting supporters
Mr Milosevic greets supporters outside his residence
They had only backed off when faced with an arsenal of weapons - including artillery and bomb equipment - from inside the compound.

Mr Mihajlovic said the authorities would try to prevent Mr Milosevic's guards - whom he described as "drunken mercenaries" - from harming citizens or the police.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic called on all armed civilians protecting Mr Milosevic to surrender their weapons.

Early on Saturday, the Belgrade daily Politika reported that Yugoslav army Chief of Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic had prevented Mr Milosevic's arrest. This was denied by an aide to the former president.

By dawn on Saturday, riot police had pushed all civilians - including an angry crowd of Milosevic supporters - back from the entrance of the former leader's house.

The interior minister said force would be used if negotiations with Mr Milosevic and his allies failed.

Charges

The minister read a long list of charges against the former president.

Armoured personnel carrier outside Mr Milosevic's residence in Belgrade
Police say force will be used if Mr Milosevic refuses to surrender
The include abuse of power, corruption, earning money illegally and the theft of state funds.

Mr Milosevic is also wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

But Mr Mihajlovic said he was being arrested on criminal charges, not on the international indictment for war crimes.

The minister made it clear he would not be extradited to the Hague.

Scene of chaos

Shots were exchanged for 15 minutes overnight after special forces pushed through the crowd, but were repelled by armed bodyguards inside the compound.


He can only be detained over our dead bodies. They can only kill us here

Milosevic ally Zivorad Igic
Reporters said it was a scene of total chaos, with people running about in different directions. At least one policeman was wounded in the clashes.

One of Mr Milosevic's close allies, Zivorad Igic, speaking from inside the villa in the exclusive suburb of Dedinje, said the defenders would lay down their lives rather than let the former president be taken into custody.

The latest developments came just before a US deadline for the government to detain the former president or risk losing American economic aid 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 in the week in an apparent show of resolve by the authorities.

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See also:

31 Mar 01 | Europe
Media confusion in Belgrade
07 Jun 00 | Europe
Nato accused of war crimes
27 Mar 01 | Europe
Milosevic allies arrested
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