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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 00:14 GMT 01:14 UK
Wife hails Milosevic the 'freedom fighter'
Mr Milosevic entering the tribunal on 30 August
Slobodan Milosevic faces war crimes charges
Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic will be recognised as a freedom fighter and a man of justice, according to his wife Mira Markovic.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC's Hardtalk programme - the first British television interview since her husband's arrest for alleged war crimes - she says that Western powers were responsible for the bloodshed in the Balkans.

Click here to watch the interview in full

Mira Markovic
Mira Markovic says her husband was blackmailed into surrender
Mr Milosevic is facing a series of charges at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague - charges that arise from the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

Mrs Markovic tells Hardtalk's Tim Sebastian: "The bloodshed in the Balkans was the result of the policy directed from outside Yugoslavia, with the intent to destroy Yugoslavia, to obliterate it. Yugoslavia ceased to exist. It disappeared in a bloodbath.

"Our responsibility for that bloodshed is minor. The responsibility should be borne by those outside of Yugoslavia who financed this bloodshed."

'Not ashamed'

Speaking of her husband's arrest, Mrs Markovic says: "He was arrested in a very devious way. He was blackmailed. He was told that either everyone would be killed or he was to go to jail. Clearly, he decided he would rather be arrested than to sacrifice anyone's life."

And she says the name Milosevic is synonymous with freedom fighting.

Opposition rally in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic's government was ousted last year
"He is now, and in the coming years he will become even more, a synonym for freedom fighter, a synonym of a man that stood up against violence, a global violence that left such painful, bloody scars in the region we live in," she says.

"As far as he is concerned, he fought for freedom, for independence."

Mrs Markovic says she is not ashamed of her nation's past.

She blames the West for the mass graves and says most of them date from previous Balkan wars.

"I don't feel any shame. On the contrary, I'm proud of my people and I am sure that throughout its history it pursued - as far as wars are concerned - a defence policy.

"If there is something that I'm ashamed of, then it's 28 June when the Serbian people shut their eyes. The fact that their representative for many years, the president of Serbia, was abducted and taken to The Hague by night."

Markovic and Milosevic
Mira Markovic married Mr Milosevic in 1965
She denies her husband has considered suicide and speaks of him as an inspiration to "many poor, small and humiliated nations throughout the world".

"He will be the symbol of the struggle against humiliation, injustice, violence and hatred among all people," she says.

And she adds that her husband will eventually be recognised as "a man of justice", saying: "In our lifetime, you will see that I was right, that all those supporting Milosevic are right, all those that realise that he is the embodiment of the struggle for truth, justice and freedom for all."

The interview with Mrs Markovic is being broadcast as part of a Balkans week special from 10-14 September.

Hardtalk is broadcast on BBC World at 0330BST/0930BST/1230BST/1830BST/2330BST. It also goes out on BBC News 24 at 2230BST.

The BBC's James Robbins
"Mrs Milosevic refuses to except any blame for herself or her husband"
The BBC's Paul Wood
"People are slowly acknowledging that atrocities were committed in Kosovo"
See also:

30 Aug 01 | Europe
Milosevic to face genocide charge
30 Aug 01 | Europe
Milosevic's second hearing
20 Aug 01 | Europe
Milosevic gets birthday visit
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