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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Belgrade closes in on war suspects
Muslim graveyard
Most suspects are in Yugoslavia or Bosnia's Serb republic
The lower house of the Yugoslav parliament has resumed debate of a draft law which will allow the extradition of war crimes suspects to the international tribunal in The Hague.

If we adopt the law, we would be kissing the bloody boots of American imperialism

Zivorad Igic
Socialist Party
The proposed law was passed by the upper house on Wednesday, and by the government late on Tuesday.

It only provides for the handover of people who have already been publicly indicted by the tribunal.

At stake is $40m of aid which the US has frozen until further extraditions take place.

The State Department welcomed on Wednesday the signs of "movement towards co-operation" with the tribunal.

Serbian Prime Minister  Zoran Djindjic
Djindjic says extraditions could start in three weeks
But spokesman Philip Reeker said the US was still awaiting "effective action" to ensure the appearance of suspects in The Hague.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has said that once the law has come into effect, the first suspects could be extradited within three weeks.

Three of four men indicted with Mr Milosevic for war crimes in Kosovo are thought to be most at risk - a former deputy prime minister, a former interior minister, and a former army chief of staff.

Kosovo co-accused
Milan Milutinovic, Serbian President
Nikola Sainovic, former Yugoslav deputy prime minister
Vlajko Stojiljkovic, former Serbian Interior Minister
Dragoljub Ojdanic, former army chief of staff
Socialists and radical nationalists oppose the law, and a long and heated debate was adjourned late on Wednesday.

A Milosevic-era information minister, Goran Matic, compared Serbia with the Wild West, where "headhunters and mercenaries are out looking for the heads of patriots".

Ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj said: "It is illegal to extradite Yugoslav citizens, and you know it with crystal clarity... All you want is to wash away your guilt after Milosevic's kidnapping."

But President Vojislav Kostunica, who until recently opposed co-operation with the tribunal, has predicted the law will be passed.

Fourth man

The upper house approved the law by 25 votes to seven.

Milan Milutinovic
President Milutinovic: Safe for now
Mr Djindjic has said that suspects will be extradited even if the law is rejected, because of the need for US aid.

The tribunal is seeking a total of 33 fugitives, of whom up to 20 - including the former Bosnian Serbs military leader, Ratko Mladic - are believed to be in Yugoslavia.

The fourth man indicted along with Mr Milosevic is Serbian President Milan Milutinovic but Serbian officials have indicated that he is safe as long as he remains in office.

A restriction preventing the law from applying to people who have not already been indicted was added by the government at the last minute.

Arrests could take place within days of the law being passed.

A district court judge would issue warrants and order police to detain suspects.

Transfer to The Hague would take place within a couple of weeks, allowing time for appeal.

The law also gives UN prosecutors access to archives, witnesses and other relevant sources.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | Europe
Bosnia genocide suspect arrested
27 Mar 02 | Europe
Serbia signals move on war crimes
19 Feb 02 | Europe
Kostunica attacks Milosevic trial
30 Jun 01 | Europe
The Hague's wanted men
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