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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Serbia dismisses top army brass
Major General Vladimir Lazarevic has been notified of mounting evidence of possible war crimes
Major Lazarevic: Warned of mounting war crimes evidence
The Government of Serbia and Montenegro has dismissed 16 of its most senior generals in a bid to reform army leadership.

Sacked generals include intelligence chief Radoslav Skoric and Vladimir Lazarevic, the former head of the Pristina Corps, which served in the Kosovo conflict.

The Supreme Defence Council (VSO) - which announced the dismissals in Montenegro on Thursday - said an unspecified number of lesser officers would also be sacked.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic said the decision would help usher in a "young and reformed army leadership".

"I am confident that the announced personnel changes in the army leadership will not jeopardise the security and safety of the state union or the reputation of the army ... among the citizens," he said.

The dismissals are widely seen as a purge of those who served former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, ousted by Serbia's present reforming government in 2000.

Colonel General Lazarevic commanded Yugoslav troops in Kosovo during the 78-day Nato bombardment in 1999, which followed President Milosevic's crackdown against the ethnic-Albanian-dominated province.

Pristina army corps soldiers stand to attention
Two hundred officers, including former Pristina army corps, could be dismissed
Major General Skoric led the army's security service, and another General, Ninoslav Krstic, was in charge of a buffer zone that separated Serbia from Nato peacekeepers in Kosovo in 2000.

Most of the fired generals were schooled in the former Soviet Union or in domestic military academies and were loyal to Mr Milosevic during his military campaigns in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s.

The reforms are generally seen as part of a broader restructuring to bring the military under tighter civilian control and pave the way for eventual Nato membership.

Many of the changes have been asserted by the country's recently appointed Defence Minister, Boris Tadic.

Associated Press news agency quoted an anonymous military source as saying 200 lower officers will be dismissed.




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