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Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Milosevic will target Britain
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic will have his day in court
Nick Assinder

Slobodan Milosevic seems determined to use his trial to accuse former British foreign secretaries of supporting his regime and keeping him in power.

The former Yugoslav President is likely to allege that Lord Hurd, Lord Owen and Lord Carrington all did secret deals with him before the Kosovo conflict.

He claims they gave him the green light for some of his actions during the war - which added to his reputation as the "Butcher of Belgrade".

The allegations have been flatly denied, but it is said Milosevic feels let down by Britain and America and is determined to whip up a controversy.

Douglas Hurd, who was Tory foreign secretary at the height of the war in Bosnia and supported sanctions against Belgrade, will be particularly targeted.

Former foreign secretary Lord Hurd
Hurd negotiated with Milosevic
Many of Milosevic's claims are likely to centre on Lord Hurd's later job as director of the National Westminster Bank and deputy chairman of its subsidiary NatWest Markets.

Brought to heel

In that role, he negotiated directly with Milosevic in 1996 to win huge contracts to advise on Yugoslavia's debt and to prepare the country's telecoms service, PTT, for privatisation.

The deal has caused controversy in the past, with claims that it was helping to prop up the Belgrade regime.

But Lord Hurd has insisted he acted perfectly properly because the Daytona agreement which brought peace to Bosnia had been struck, and the Kosovo conflict had not erupted.

He has pointed out that sanctions had been lifted at the time and there was a feeling that only by offering aid could Milosevic be brought to heel.

Former EU negotiator Lord Owen
Owen saw no deals
And it is certain that, with sanctions lifted, other businesses were also seeking lucrative contracts with Belgrade to help boost its post-war economy.

But it appears Milosevic is also planning to go further and suggest that the former foreign secretaries connived to keep him in power.

Strongest leader

He may also name foreign office diplomats who, he alleges, were involved in the deals.

Lord Owen, who was the EU's special negotiator in Yugoslavia between 1992 and 1995 has also denied there were any secret deals between Britain and Belgrade.

Foreign Office officials are braced for a series of allegations by Milosevoic when he appears in the Hague.

He is also planning to call the individuals to give evidence in the court.

What is certain is that, as the strongest leader in the region, the allies had to deal with Milosevic at some levels.

They will adamantly deny any of this amounted to giving him encouragement to carry on with his hardline regime - but he is clearly out to cause the maximum amount of embarrassment he can.

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