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The BBC's Paul Anderson reports
"Milosevic's lawyers have moved swiftly to try to reverse the government decree"
 real 28k

Monday, 25 June, 2001, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Milosevic challenges extradition decree
Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic: Wanted over Kosovo atrocities
Lawyers for Slobodan Milosevic have filed an official challenge with the Yugoslav Constitutional Court to a government decree preparing for his extradition.

The decree, which took effect on Sunday, allows for the transfer of the former Yugoslav president and other indicted war criminals to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

A supporter of Slobodan Milosevic
Supporters of the former president have branded the decree illegal
The European Union praised the decree on Monday but US officials said they wanted more details - one saying that it did not represent a "significant step" towards co-operation with the tribunal.

The lawyers for Mr Milosevic's, who faces charges of crimes against humanity, said it contravened Yugoslavia's constitution, which does not allow extradition.

"This was a political decision and it renders the law helpless against such bullying methods," lawyer Toma Fila told The Associated Press news agency.

Supporters of the decree say transferring Mr Milosevic and others does not amount to extradition because the tribunal is a UN institution, not a foreign state.

Lawyers are also expected to file a complaint with the Serbian Supreme Court to put the decree on hold while the Constitutional Court decides.

Mr Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia has also said it will challenge the decree.

Donors' conference

European Union foreign ministers meeting Luxembourg on Monday said the decree was a "positive step on the path towards full co-operation with the tribunal".

They added that it cleared the way for a planned donors' conference in Brussels on Friday, where Yugoslavia is hoping to raise $1bn in aid.

However, US State Department officials said that, although they welcomed the steps Belgrade had taken, they may still boycott the conference.

"Milosevic needs to have international justice and that's what we are waiting to see - how they intend to go about that," one official was quoted as saying.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer urged the Yugoslav authorities to take the next step and hand over Mr Milosevic.

Slobodan Milosevic's solicitor, Toma Fila
Mr Fila has eight days to lodge an appeal
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said the transfer, if approved, could happen in two to three weeks.

Another 15 war crimes suspects, including four senior military and political associates of Mr Milosevic indicted at the same time, are sheltering in Yugoslavia.

Some are the subject of secret indictments issued by the tribunal. But all eyes are on Mr Milosevic.

If he is transferred he would be the first former head of state to be tried by a war crimes tribunal.

He is accused of planning and ordering a campaign of terror, persecution and violence against the Kosovo Albanians, at the end of the 1990s.

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