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Official: Milosevic arrested

supporters
People rally support for Milosevic outside his home  

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Carko Kovac, a deputy prime minister of Serbia says former president Slobodan Milosevic has been arrested.

He also told CNN that there would be no official official government statement confirming the arrest until Saturday.

There was confusion surrounding the status of Milosevic whose property was beseiged by police and supporters.

The Independent B-92 radio reported that authorities had arrested him and taken him to the Palace of Justice, but Sinisa Vucinic, a top aide to Milosevic, denied that he was under arrest.

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Serbia's deputy prime minister Carko Kovac: He is now in custody and imprisoned in Belgrade

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"I'm looking at him now. He is not arrested," he told The Associated Press.

Police converged on Milosevic's home in Belgrade earlier in the evening the day before a U.S. deadline calling for Yugoslavia to co-operate with the International War Crimes Tribunal.

Riot police sealed off the area around the home to cars, but allowed pedestrians in.

At the front gate, more than 200 Milosevic supporters gathered, chanting "Slobo, Slobo!", "Serbia, Serbia!" and "We will not let them arrest you."

Journalist Bratislav Grubacic told CNN the Yugoslav government was trying to bring Milosevic to justice on tax evasion and other charges for actions during his tenure as president. Milosevic also is wanted in the Hague for alleged war crimes.

"It is a very sensitive, moral, political, emotional issue to send Mr. Milosevic to the Hague," Grubacic said.

In Washington, President George W. Bush said: "We've always said Mr. Milosevic should be brought to justice."

Earlier in the day, a high-ranking official of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), Milosevic's party, announced to parliament that police were en route to arrest the former Yugoslav president.

He called for Milosevic supporters to gather in front of the home to prevent the arrest, and Milosevic allies then left the parliament building to demonstrate.

The U.S. had given Yugoslavia a deadline of March 31 to demonstrate compliance with the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague or face a cut-off of U.S. funds, about $50 million in assistance.

The deadline is not contingent on the arrest of Milosevic, but the U.S. has repeatedly said it wants the former Yugoslav president brought to justice.

One senior administration official said the arrest of Milosevic would be a "long step forward" toward compliance with the tribunal.

The official said the U.S. will be looking at Yugoslavia's "overall performance" in coming days.

Bush met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier in the day about the situation, which Powell said they are closely monitoring.

"We'll see what happens over the next two days," Powell said.



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RELATED SITES:
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Home Page
United States House of Representatives - 107th Congress

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