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World welcomes Milosevic handover

Milosevic is en route to The Hague  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The international community was swift to welcome the handing over of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the U.N. on war crimes charges.

Jim Langdale, a spokesman for the International War Crimes Tribunal, in The Hague, said: "The message is very clear. No individual is above the law, not matter what position they held in the past."

The European Union's Swedish presidency welcomed as "courageous" the handover.

"It is a very courageous decision but nevertheless the only way forward," Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh told Reuters.

"It shows that there is a political will to try to deal with the past and not try to hide from the past."

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the development was "a thoroughly good thing."

CNN's Alessio Vinci: The Yugoslav government has confirmed the handover
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Speaking in Belfast, where he is attanding talks on the Northern Ireland peace process, he said: "If he is, indeed, on his way to The Hague, that is good news because we have always made it clear that he should stand trial in respect of the allegations that we have always made against him."

President George W. Bush said the transfer was a message that those who brought "tragedy and brutality" to the Balkans would be held accountable and he said the United States stood ready to assist Yugoslavia as it worked to move forward on economic and democratic reform.

"I applaud today's transfer of indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague," Bush said in a statement.

"This very important step by the leaders in Belgrade ensures that Milosevic can finally be tried for his war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"The transfer of Milosevic to The Hague is an unequivocal message to those persons who brought such tragedy and brutality to the Balkans that they will be held accountable for their crimes."

A NATO official said in Brussels: "This is where we have always said he belongs. The government and people of Yugoslavia have made the right choice."

Blair: "a thoroughly good thing"  

The European Commission said the transfer of Milosevic to The Hague would boost Belgrade's efforts to raise cash at a donors' conference set for Friday.

The handover had been a key demand of donors preparing to attend the conference in Brussels, which will be chaired jointly by the European Commission and the World Bank.

"This is very good news and will certainly have a positive effect on donors' attitudes. It will help ensure that what is pledged is swiftly followed up," a commission spokesman told Reuters.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the handover was a "great triumph" for justice.

In a statement, Schroeder praised the Yugoslav government for a difficult, but vital, decision.

"I am extraordinarily delighted by the handover of Slobodan Milosevic to the international tribunal in The Hague," said Schroeder, who has repeatedly urged Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica to hand over Milosevic.

"This is a great triumph for the international efforts to achieve justice. Yugoslavia has fulfilled its legal obligation to co-operate with the tribunal with this, which was certainly not an easy step. It was, however, vital on account of the countless victims of the wars in former Yugoslavia."

Schroeder: "a great triumph" for justice  

Schroeder said the handover should open the gates for international support to help rebuild the Yugoslav economy.

"The international community should now move quickly with increased support to help Yugoslavia with the difficult economic and social reconstruction process," Schroeder added.

"Germany is ready to help with the best of its abilities."

In Paris, French President Jacques Chirac said the news would send a strong message about human dignity.

"Milosevic, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, will finally be accountable for his acts," Chirac said.

"His transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal is an act of justice. Everybody will know from now on that one cannot flout with impunity the essential values of human dignity."

The U.N. Mission in Bosnia welcomed the extradition of Milosevic, said spokesman Stefo Lehmann.

"This shows the cooperation of the Yugoslav government with the war crimes tribunal but hopefully it will extend in future to other indictees who are also wanted by the tribunal," Lehmann told Reuters.

Amnesty International UK said in a statement: "Not a moment too soon, international law has caught up with Slobodan Milosevic.

"This is a key moment in the struggle to restore human rights and justice to the former Yugoslavia.

"Justice delayed is justice denied, and it is vital that nothing is now allowed to stand in the way of Milosevic's route to the dock in The Hague.

"The fact that thousands of people were killed, raped and tortured during Milosevic's time in office means that it is vital that he face the human rights charges made against him.

"It is also important that those at still at large in Yugoslavia and wanted by The Hague should also be handed over as quickly as possible."

• International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
• Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
• The European Union
• British Government
• German Government

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