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Clark testifies at Milosevic trial

Clark directed NATO's 11-week bombing campaign against Serbia.
Clark directed NATO's 11-week bombing campaign against Serbia.

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Former U.S. general Wesley Clark testifies at Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial.
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Slobodan Milosevic
Hague (Netherlands)
Wesley Clark

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands (Reuters) -- Democratic presidential hopeful and ex-NATO commander Wesley Clark has testified at Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial in The Hague.

Clark, who directed the alliance's 11-week bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999 during Belgrade's crackdown on Kosovo Albanian separatists, testified behind closed doors Monday at the U.N. war crimes court under strict conditions agreed with Washington.

Clark's testimony will be made public Friday. The United States secured the right to ask the court to edit the recording and transcript of Clark's testimony before it is made public in order to protect its national interests.

The retired four-star general, part of the U.S. team which helped to negotiate the 1995 peace agreement ending the Bosnian war, is one of the most high-profile witnesses to testify at Europe's biggest war crimes trials since World War Two.

"I've just finished my first session in the trial at The Hague of former Serbian and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. The last time I had seen him was 1999," Clark told reporters outside the tribunal.

Milosevic has been on trial since February 2002 charged with ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. He is defending himself against charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He does not recognize the court.

Clark, a Vietnam War veteran bidding to win the Democratic Party nomination to take on Republican President Bush in the 2004 White House race, last met the former Serb strongman in Belgrade in January 1999, before NATO bombed Serbia.

Clark declined to discuss his testimony until appeared before the court again Tuesday. Witnesses are asked not to discuss their statements until they have finished testifying.

But he told reporters after his first day on the witness stand that the trial was particularly significant for the people of the Balkans after years of conflict.

"It's closure with a man who caused the deaths ... or is alleged to have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the homelessness and refugee burden throughout Europe," Clark told reporters.

"There were murders and rapes and thousands expelled and people imprisoned and bludgeoned and murdered, including the slaughter at Srebrenica. This is the sense of judicial closure, that the world community cares, that it took action, that it brought to justice the alleged perpetrator," Clark said.

Clark spoke to Milosevic for more than 100 hours over a period of almost four years in the 1990s when he was a U.S. negotiator at Dayton and later NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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