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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK

World: Europe

Milosevic branded war criminal

Refugees call for the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic

The United Nations war crimes tribunal is expected to confirm shortly that it has indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for human rights atrocities.

Kosovo: Special Report
He is likely to be accused of directing massacres and expulsions during the Bosnian war.

The indictment would be the first of a sitting head of state.

The tribunal is holding a news conference at The Hague at 1200GMT and is expected to deliver a warrant for President Milosevic's arrest to the Yugoslav embassy nearby.

The BBC's James Robbins: Evidence has been gathered over several years
BBC correspondent James Robbins says there is little prospect of Mr Milosevic being brought to trial soon, but he will be further isolated and will be unable to travel.

International Criminal Tribunal Chief Investigator Louise Arbour has already visited the Balkans to gather evidence against suspected war criminals.

"We are aiming at prosecuting the persons who are the most responsible by virtue either of their position of command or the atrocity of the crimes that are attributed to them personally," she said.

Yugoslav Foreign Ministry Spokesman Miloslav Paic: "This is the most ridiculous news I have heard so far."
But the Yugoslav leader, who does not accept the jurisdiction of the tribunal, is likely to dismiss the allegations.

The Yugoslav Ambassador to the UN, Vladislav Jovanic, told the BBC that the charge was "another charade" and part of an attempt to demonise Yugoslavia.

Peace visit to go ahead

Russia has reacted with dismay to the news, saying the indictment would be counter-productive to the peace process.

Vladislav Jovanic: The move seeks to turn the population against the government and the president
However, Russian Balkan peace envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin is going to Belgrade to meet President Milosevic, despite earlier speculation that he would cancel the visit.

He met US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari earlier for final talks.

"All issues have been worked out well enough yesterday and in the morning today (Thursday)," said a spokesman for Mr Chernomyrdin.

John Simpson in Belgrade: It's hard to see how anyone could now do business with Mr Milosevic
Asked whether Mr Milosevic could still be a partner in a peace settlement, he said: "We will still seek a settlement with the Yugoslav authorities. Milosevic is still president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."

New strikes record

As speculation of an indictment mounted overnight, Nato stepped up its air strikes on Yugoslavia. It said it had achieved a new record of 741 strikes in a single night.

(Click here to see a map of latest Nato strikes)

Fifty missile attacks were reported on Belgrade and surrounding areas. Residents and local media said there had been intense anti-aircraft fire and civilian deaths.

Two children and a woman were killed and three seriously wounded when missiles hit houses in Ralja, 30km south of Belgrade, state news agency Tanjug said.

Tanjug also reported three deaths in the Kosovska Vitina area, south of Pristina.

There were also reports of heavy strikes on the industrial town of Nis in southern Serbia and on Markovici, close to the Kosovo border.

Local media reported that two children had been killed in the village of Radosti in southwest Kosovo.

Powerful explosions were heard from a nearby military airport in Batajnica.

A Nato missile was also reported to have struck a Yugoslav trade ministry building in Belgrade without exploding.

Nato said it had planned to hit that building when it bombed the Chinese embassy by mistake.

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