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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 15:22 GMT
British envoy grilled by Milosevic
Paddy Ashdown giving evidence at The Hague
Lord Ashdown visited the Balkans during the conflicts
Slobodan Milosevic has been carrying out an intensive cross-examination of the former British envoy to the Balkans, Paddy Ashdown, at his trial at the war crimes court in The Hague.

Could the witness answer my questions and stop making speeches

Slobodan Milosevic
The former Yugoslav leader accused Lord Ashdown, the first Western politician to testify at the tribunal, of making speeches instead of answering the questions.

Mr Milosevic had begun by asking Lord Ashdown, the bulk of whose evidence so far has related to two trips made as the Kosovo crisis was unfolding, what he had known of Nato's plans to attack Serbia.

Lord Ashdown said the purpose of the visits had been to prevent international intervention over Kosovo, from which Mr Milosevic is charged with masterminding the deportation of thousands of ethnic Albanians.

He said he had witnessed "indiscriminate and punitive" attacks in Kosovo, "designed to drive innocent civilians out."

"I said to you that if you took those steps and went on doing this you would end up in this court. And here you are," he told Mr Milosevic, referring to their meeting in Belgrade in 1998.

Mr Milosevic has chosen to defend himself at his trial for alleged war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, and genocide in Bosnia, and is therefore entitled to cross-examine any witnesses.

'Intolerable situation'

Since the trial began just over a month ago, he has put up a spirited defence.

On Kosovo, he has consistently argued that it was Nato's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 which caused most of the casualties in the province and drove civilians out.

Racak massacre
The Racak massacre was one of the worst Kosovo atrocities
Lord Ashdown, who made his first appearance on Thursday, has told the court about what he witnessed during his two trips to Kosovo prior to the bombing campaign, detailing the Serbian military operation within the province.

In June 1998, based at the border, he said he witnessed Yugoslav tanks and other military units bombarding villages and homes.

Later, in September, he said went to western Kosovo and saw evidence of villages which had been deserted, destroyed and "utterly trashed".

He also spoke to Kosovo refugees over the border in northern Albania, who said they had been forced to leave and cross high mountain passes in harrowing conditions.

And he told the court that he saw substantial quantities of small arms being smuggled across the Albanian border for ethnic Albanian rebels.

On meeting Mr Milosevic in 1998, Lord Ashdown handed over a letter from British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"The present situation is intolerable and cannot be allowed to continue," read the letter, which was displayed to the court.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The courtroom clashes were angry and frequent"
Lord Ashdown and Milosevic exchange words
"I said ...some of the methods you used were illegal under international law"
See also:

12 Mar 02 | Europe
The Milosevic case: Timeline
01 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Yugoslavia
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