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Serbs push for extradition law

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Milosevic supporters still demand his immediate release  


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbian leaders may seek new ways of extraditing former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to face war crimes allegations, a top official has told the Associated Press.

The announcement comes after a key Yugoslav party -- Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) -- said it would vote against introducing a law allowing war crimes suspects to be extradited to face charges at a U.N. court.

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus said "to avoid embarrassment" and outright rejection of the controversial law, he and other Serbian leaders may give up their efforts to have the law approved by the federal parliament.

Instead, he added, they may push to have the law adopted by the separate parliament that governs only the republic of Serbia.

The Yugoslav government -- comprised of Serbia and Montenegro -- voted in favour of the law last week, but for it to become valid it must be voted through by federal parliament -- scheduled to meet on Thursday.

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Serbia's reformist DOS alliance, which ousted Milosevic last year, dominates the federal government but needs the support of the Montenegrin party to secure an absolute majority in parliament.

"If there is no other way, Serbia will have to take the responsibility for making important decisions," Labus said during an interview with the independent radio station B-92.

Failure to pass the law and co-operate with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, could undermine efforts to attract crucial foreign funds for an economy impoverished by a decade of wars and international sanctions under Milosevic's rule.

A rejection of the law at the federal parliament session "would mean that Yugoslavia rejects meeting its international obligations," Labus warned.

Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the tribunal, has postponed a trip to Belgrade, originally scheduled for Friday, her spokeswoman Florence Hartmann told AP. The trip will be rescheduled after the vote, she added.

A crucial donors conference -- which could result in billions of dollars of assistance to Yugoslavia -- is set for June 29. However, the United States has said its participation hinges on whether Yugoslavia co-operates with the tribunal.

The socialist party does not oppose "co-operation" with the tribunal, but refuses to hand-over Yugoslavs, saying the tribunal is biased.

SNP party leader Predrag Bulatovic reiterated on Tuesday that party members and supporters believe the tribunal is anti-Serb, and Milosevic would not get a fair trial there.

Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said if no agreement is reached, "Serbia's independence is quite possible."

The U.N. tribunal indicted the Milosevic and four of his top aides in 1999 for alleged atrocities committed by Yugoslav forces against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

The U.N. court has demanded a swift handover of Milosevic, arrested in April for alleged abuse of power.





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