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Friday, May 28, 1999 Published at 08:25 GMT 09:25 UK


World: Europe

Envoy back in Belgrade

Nato raids continued throughout Thursday

Yugoslavia has dismissed the indictment of President Milosevic on war crimes charges as a "propaganda trick" and the "ultimate hypocrisy".

Kosovo: Special Report
Despite fears that the indictment could hinder diplomatic efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis, the Russian Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin has returned to Belgrade for more talks on ending the Kosovo conflict.

A government minister in Belgrade, Goran Matic, described the indictment by the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague as a deliberate attempt by Nato to postpone a political solution to the Kosovo conflict.


The BBC's Andrew Bomford: "The task is growing more and more difficult"
"The Hague criminal court is a private court set up by Madeleine Albright, Wesley Clark and James Rubin for all those who do not think the way they do," he said.

The BBC's Mike Williams, who is in Belgrade, says the authorities there appear to have decided that the indictment is of little consequence.

Four other Serb political and military leaders - including Serb President Milan Milutinovic - have also been indicted and arrest warrants have been issued.

As the 66th night of bombing got under way, the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, was is in darkness because of Nato attacks on the electricity grid.

Towers carrying power lines and small transformer stations were hit.

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

There has also been some of the heaviest fighting seen so far on the Kosovo border with northern Albania.

Serbs fired shells near the Morina refugee border crossing targetting Kosovo Liberation Army positions.

Five responsible


Louise Arbour: There are serious questions about their suitability to be guarantors of a peace agreement
Chief UN war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour said the five indicted officials were being held personally responsible for their role in the deportation of 740,000 Kosovar Albanians and the murder of 340 "identified" Kosovar Albanians, Ms Arbour said.

Mr Milosevic is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the tribunal. If he is brought to trial and convicted he will face a maximum life sentence.

An opposition politican, the vice-president of the Democratic Party, Slobodan Vuksanovic feared the decision might even make President Milosevic stronger.


Slobodan Vuksanovic: The deccision makes his position even stronger
"A wounded lion is a dangerous lion," he told the BBC.

Branko Brankovic, chief Yugoslav envoy at the UN in Geneva, said Yugoslavia did not recognise the court and would not acknowledge the indictment.

Correspondents say the indictments will seriously complicate international efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kosovo conflict.

Clinton welcomes charges

US President Bill Clinton said he welcomed the indictment saying it sent a message to the "hundreds and thousands of victims of Belgrade's atrocities in Kosovo that their voices have been heard."


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However, officials added that the US did not rule out meeting President Milosevic if it was in the US interests.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it would complicate efforts to end the Kosovo crisis, but Moscow would still involve President Milosevic in its diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution.

The charges only deal with crimes alleged to have been committed since the beginning of 1999.

The other three indicted are: Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Dragoljub Ojdanic and Minister of Internal Affairs of Serbia Vlajko Stojiljkovic.


John Simpson in Belgrade: The media here are not giving the indictment much space
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.

Since it was established in 1993, the court has managed to convict and sentence only seven of the publicly indicted 84 suspects.

Mr Milosevic has not formally reacted to the indictment and spent the morning in a meeting with former Greek premier Constantin Mitsotakis where he called for an immediate solution to the Kosovo conflict and a switch from the "military to the political track".

Peace visit


[ image: Viktor Chernomyrdin (right) is going ahead with his visit]
Viktor Chernomyrdin (right) is going ahead with his visit
Mr Chernomyrdin, who has been spearheading recent diplomatic moves on Kosovo, is back in Belgrade.

In Moscow, he met US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari in the morning for final talks. A spokesman for Mr Chernomyrdin said Mr Milosevic would still be a partner in the peace settlement.


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Internet Links


Eyewitness accounts of the bombing

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Serbian Ministry of Information

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UNHCR Kosovo news

Text of the tribunal's announcement


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