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Milosevic Indictment-Carla Del Ponte tells Kostunica the tribunal is ready for Milosevic 'at any time'

Tribunal Update 193 Last Week in The Hague (October 2-7, 2000)

On Friday, del Ponte welcomed "the new-found democracy" in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, FRY, telling the country's new president Vojislav Kostunica that the Hague court is ready for Milosevic "at any time".

Del Ponte's message was sent amid a flurry of Western diplomatic statements that now was not the time to insist on Milosevic's extradition.

Del Ponte said the ex-president must be prosecuted "if there is to be a true and lasting peace in the Balkans and if the people of Yugoslavia are to be fully accepted back into the international community"

Tribunal prosecution spokesman Paul Risley said del Ponte supports diplomatic efforts to restore good relations with the FRY so long as the tribunal's authority is not undermined.

Risley pointed out that Milosevic's co-indictees for crimes committed in Kosovo - Milan Milutinovic, Nikola Sainovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic and Vlajko Stojiljkovic - remain in high office in Serbia and the FRY.

Tribunal prosecutors question whether the European Union and its member countries can normalise relations with the country whose government comprises officials accused of war crimes.

Del Ponte is to meet the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi next week to discuss such matters.

In addition to the indictments against Milosevic and his four colleagues for war crimes in Kosovo, three indictees accused of the Ovcara massacre in Vukovar - Mile Mrksic, Veselin Sljivancanin and Miroslav Radic - are still at large in Serbia. Former Bosnian Serb military commander General Ratko Mladic is also known to have sought refuge in Belgrade.

Risley said the chance of the fugitives being arrested could increase "dramatically" just as in neighbouring Croatia after the death of President Franjo Tudjman and the electoral defeat of his nationalist government.

Indeed, Risley said there was even a chance Milosevic may himself seek refuge at The Hague should Serbia's embittered citizens seek to prosecute him in Yugoslavia for crimes against his own people.

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