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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 21:22 GMT 22:22 UK
Serbia refuses to extradite president
Serbian President Milan Milutinovic
Wanted: Serbian President Milan Milutinovic
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has rejected calls for the extradition of Serbian President Milan Milutinovic to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

He was speaking as the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, arrived to demand the handover of Mr Milutinovic - an ally of the former Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic - and 14 other war crimes suspects.

Under our laws [Mr Milutinovic] is protected by immunity and international law is not above our own

Zoran Djindjic
Mr Djindjic said the president enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

"Under our laws he is protected by immunity and international law is not above our own," Mr Djindjic said, quoted by the Tanjug news agency.

The decision to extradite Mr Milosevic earlier this year led to deep rifts in the leadership in Belgrade.
Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte
Ms Del Ponte will be asked to make public sealed indictments

Ms Del Ponte's first visit to Yugoslavia in January was also marred by an ugly dispute with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who sees the war crimes tribunal as a political institution, biased against the Serbs.

But many more war crimes suspects remain at large in Serbia, not least four senior Milosevic associates indicted with him, among them Mr Milutinovic.

There are also three former and serving army commanders accused of slaughtering Croats who had been sheltering in a hospital in the besieged Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991.

KLA investigations urged

President Vojislav Kostunica
President Kostunica has been highly critical of the tribunal
Mr Djindjic said last week he would help the process, even though a law defining relations with the tribunal has yet to be passed.

The Serbian Justice Minister, Vladan Batic, has meanwhile urged the tribunal to take action against former leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which fought Yugoslav troops during the Kosovo conflict.

The KLA has been disbanded, but many of its leaders remain important figures in the province.

Serbian officials have particularly called for the KLA's leader at the time, Hashim Thaci, now the head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), and Agim Ceku, now head of the Kosovo civil protection force, to be investigated.

Mr Batic said he would also ask Ms Del Ponte to make public sealed indictments, and to allow Yugoslav citizens indicted for war crimes to be tried before courts in their home countries.

The BBC's Nick Pelham reports
"Officials say he should enjoy immunity from prosecution"
See also:

30 Aug 01 | Europe
Q&A: Milosevic trial
30 Aug 01 | Europe
Milosevic to face genocide charge
03 Aug 01 | Europe
War crimes: The ethnic balance
30 Jun 01 | Europe
The Hague's wanted men
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