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Feud over Kosovo war crimes mounts

Mihajlovic
Serb Interior Minister Mihajlovic rejected army claims of ignorance  


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbia's interior minister has accused the Yugoslav army chief of lying in a feud over alleged atrocities in Kosovo.

Revelations about a truckload of bodies dredged from the River Danube have created a rift between army officials originally appointed by ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and police chiefs drawn from the reformers who overthrew him.

The accusation of lying came as police revealed that a mass grave believed to contain dozens of bodies of ethnic Albanians was found at a police training camp outside Belgrade, Associated Press reported.

The grave is the latest associated with a cover-up of war crimes linked to Milosevic.

Also on Wednesday, Yugoslavia President Vojislav Kostunica said a law to extradite war crimes suspects such as Milosevic to U.N. tribunal in the Netherlands is likely to be approved by the Cabinet and then go to parliament.

Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic, who runs the police, rejected Army General Nebojsa Pavkovic's assurances, made on Tuesday, of ignorance of abuses in Kosovo in 1999.

ALSO
Kostunica looks to war crimes deal  
 

"Why is Pavkovic claiming he has no knowledge of what was going on in Kosovo?" Mihajlovic, from the ruling DOS coalition which toppled Milosevic last year, asked at a news conference.

"Why is Pavkovic making up lies?"

Pavkovic commanded the Yugoslav army in southern Serbia, including the mainly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo, during the 1999 NATO air strikes which eventually forced Yugoslav forces to withdraw from the region.

Milosevic later promoted him to chief of staff.

The West has repeatedly accused Yugoslav security forces of war crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo.

Both the Yugoslav army and Serbian police have said they have started investigating crimes committed by their personnel.

Pavkovic on Tuesday accused the police of trying to implicate army chiefs with allegations of a cover-up of suspected war crimes, Reuters reported.

He also rejected police accusations, reported in local media, that generals had been involved in removing the bodies of Albanians from Kosovo during the NATO air campaign.

The dispute was triggered by revelations in April that a freezer truck packed with bodies had been recovered in 1999 from the Danube and speculation the dead were murdered Albanians.

The mass grave, believed to contain the remains of ethnic Albanians slain in Kosovo in 1999, is in the Belgrade suburb of Batajnica, Police Captain Dragan Karleusa said.

The bodies were at first dumped into the Danube in a freezer-truck near the Romanian border in April 1999, hundreds of miles outside Kosovo, the Interior Ministry has said.

"Bodies were then pulled out of river, loaded in two trucks, transported to Batajnica, and buried there," Karleusa said.

Police have said Milosevic ordered top police and military commanders in a March 1999 meeting "to remove all evidence" of civilian casualties from the Kosovo crackdown that could be subject to "possible investigation by The Hague tribunal."





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