Tribunal may brand Milosevic a war criminal
May 26, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic could be indicted for alleged war crimes as early as Thursday, sources have told CNN, leaving negotiations for an end to the Kosovo crisis on shaky ground.
Details on the charges, to be handed down this week, were unavailable, said CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Other people may be named in the indictment.
The tribunal, based at The Hague, Netherlands, would not comment on the report, but said it would hold a news conference on Thursday. There was no immediate comment from the Yugoslav government, but officials there have said in the past that the tribunal was biased and anti-Serb.
Many of the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees who fled Kosovo have reported what they described as systematic rapes, beatings, detentions and mass killings at the hands of Serb forces.
The indictment of Milosevic would mark the first time a sitting head of state has been charged with war crimes.
Under the tribunal's rules, war-crimes suspects are required to surrender or be surrendered by authorities. But observers say Milosevic is unlikely to turn himself for trial, leaving NATO in the position of negotiating with an indicted war criminal for a resolution to the Kosovo-Serb conflict.
"It's going to deeply complicate the effort to find a diplomatic solution," said CNN's David Ensor.
But U.S. officials told CNN they would have "no choice" but to negotiate with the president of Yugoslavia, even if he is indicted.
There is some precedent for negotiations with indicted war criminals -- U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke met with Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, in the presence of Milosevic, for negotiations leading up to the Dayton accords in 1995, which ended the Bosnian conflict.
Karadzic and Mladic remain at large.
NATO began Operation Allied Force, a relentless air campaign against Yugoslavia, on March 24, responding to what it saw as Yugoslavia's policy against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
The bombing continued for the 63rd day Wednesday, with NATO warplanes pounding positions in southern Serbia. Meanwhile, Russian, U.S. and European envoys met in Moscow, seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Serbian media said NATO attacks targeted Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina, and the northern city Novi Sad. Other strikes were reported in central and southern Yugoslavia, as well as an area north of the port of Bar in Montenegro, Yugoslavia's pro-Western republic.
Witnesses also reported a heavy attack near Kosovo's main border crossing with Albania, where several hundred thousand refugees have crossed since the bombing began. International monitors said a man and a woman were killed in a Serb artillery attack across the border in Albania.
Earlier Wednesday, NATO reported 650 sorties in the previous 24 hours, including a record 284 strike sorties.
In Moscow, talks between Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott continued into the evening. The negotiators were trying to "maximize the areas of agreement" between the various international entities involved, Talbott said before the meeting began.
Chernomyrdin continued to call for an end to the bombing.
"It is necessary to stop the air strikes and negotiate, agree and at last come to a result," Chernomyrdin said before the talks, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. "At least a temporary pause is needed."
Russia and NATO disagree on two key points: the make-up of an international peacekeeping force stationed in Kosovo once the bombing ends, and the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from the province.
NATO has demanded a large, heavily armed force with NATO at its core; Yugoslavia has said it will accept nothing more than a small, lightly armed force commanded by the United Nations.
NATO also demands a complete withdrawal of Yugoslav forces before the bombing can end, although Talbott said Wednesday that some Serb forces may be allowed back into Kosovo to guard Serbian historic sites or handle some border patrol duties. Yugoslavia wants some troops to remain behind while the bulk of the force withdraws.
Chernomyrdin is to travel to Belgrade Thursday to meet with Milosevic.
Trial of aid workers begins in Yugoslavia
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