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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 20:07 GMT 21:07 UK
Serbia votes to 'pay Milosevic'
Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic has been on trial since 2002
The Serbian parliament has adopted a controversial bill which provides financial compensation and state benefits to war crimes suspects.

It applies to former President Slobodan Milosevic and other Serbs held at the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

Serbia's foreign minister dubbed the move - which makes it possible for them to get taxpayers' money for legal and other expenses - as irresponsible.

It comes ahead of a crucial US decision on whether to give Serbia more aid.

The BBC's Nick Hawton in Belgrade reports says the decision - involving millions of US dollars - depends on whether Washington believes Serbia has been co-operating fully with The Hague and helping to extradite more indictees.

Defiance to the West

The legislation was proposed by the strongly nationalist Serbian Radical Party and was backed by parliament and the newly elected Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

Compensates suspects for lost salaries
Helps them to cover legal fees
Reimburses family members' travel expenses, visa and hotel costs
Gives support towards phone and mail bills

The law calls for all those indicted for war crimes to be paid monthly compensation for lost salaries and legal fees.

It also provides financial help to families of the accused to cover travel expenses, hotel and visa costs and phone bills.

The coalition Serbian government - which includes Mr Milosevic's Socialist Party - has already made it clear that sending more indictees to The Hague is not one of its priorities.

Opponents described the move as a poorly-disguised gesture of defiance to the West and a pay-off to the Socialists for their backing of Mr Kostunica's minority government.

"What Radicals want is for the state to pay Slobodan Milosevic," Mr Svilanovic said.

The new law is unlikely to be welcomed in Washington, our correspondent says.

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