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The BBC's Paul Wood in Belgrade
"What we did not expect... is the very great speed with which the government... has implemented its decision"
 real 56k

Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Milosevic is extradited
Slobodan Milosevic
The US forced the pace on Milosevic's extradition
The former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is on his way to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal to face war crimes charges.

The news was officially confirmed by a spokesman for the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic who told reporters: "The former president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been handed over to the Hague authorities."

I cannot believe that this has happened

Toma Fila
Milosevic lawyer
The extradition means that Mr Milosevic will become the first former head of state to face trial by the war crimes tribunal.

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

Prosecutors say they also plan to broaden the charges to cover alleged war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia.

Crisis meeting

Reporters at Belgrade's Central Prison saw a motorcade leaving the building for an undisclosed location but could not verify if Mr Milosevic was in any of the cars.

Milosevic supporter
Milosevic still has support in Yugoslavia
The handing over of Mr Milosevic followed an extraordinary meeting of the government, called to discuss an earlier ruling by the Yugoslav constitutional court which put a hold on the extradition process.

The court said it wanted two weeks to evaluate an appeal by Mr Milosevic's lawyers against a decree issued by the Yugoslav Government on Saturday, which paved the way for the handover.

After the government meeting, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic issued a short statement, saying his government had decided to take over the jurisdiction of federal authorities on the extradition law.

The decree is in force and it is now a matter for the Serbian Government to decide

Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic

In his first reaction to the news, Mr Milosevic's lawyer, Toma Fila said: "I cannot believe that this has happened."

Mr Fila had argued that sending the former president to the international tribunal would violate a Yugoslav ban on extradition.

But the government argued that handing over Mr Milosevic did not amount to extradition as the tribunal is a United Nations institution, not a foreign state.

Aid needed

Mr Milosevic's departure for the Hague comes a day before an international donor conference in Brussels at which Belgrade hopes to secure $1bn in aid.

The US has said it will not hand over any money until Mr Milosevic and other war crimes suspects are transferred to the Hague tribunal.

Mr Milosevic has been held in jail since 1 April on charges of corruption and abuse of power. He faces more serious charges of crimes against humanity at the tribunal in The Hague.

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27 Jun 01 | Business
Yugoslavia's shattered economy
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