Former Serbian leader won't resist arrest for war crimes

Sunday, January 5, 2003

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbia's former president said Saturday that he would not resist arrest to face war crimes charges before the U.N. tribunal at The Hague.

Milan Milutinovic claimed he posed no danger to anyone who might try to detain him on crimes allegedly committed in Kosovo during the 1998-1999 conflict. But he refused to say whether he would surrender voluntarily. He could theoretically fight any move to extradite him in local courts.

"I will not cause troubles to (Serbian) police," he said during an interview. His term as president of Yugoslavia's dominant republic expired Dec. 29, ending his immunity.

Milutinovic was a member of the inner circle of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Any testimony he might offer could prove damaging to the former Yugoslav leader, who is facing genocide charges before the U.N. court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Milutinovic denied he had any role in war crimes in Kosovo, saying he didn't have control over the security forces in the southern Yugoslav province.

His remarks come only days after a district court in Yugoslavia's capital, Belgrade, asked Serbia's government for permission to enact a U.N. tribunal arrest warrant and extradite Milutinovic.

Under Yugoslav law, the government of Serbia must approve the request. The government could refuse to do so if it deems that a handover endangers state security.

Milutinovic, Serbian president since 1997, is one of a handful of prominent suspects still awaiting extradition to the tribunal.

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