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Former Bosnian Serb Leader Appears Before War Crimes Tribunal

Aired January 11, 2001 - 1:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Also today, a former top Bosnian Serb leader appeared before the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague. She answered charges stemming from atrocities committed during Bosnia's bloody civil war.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers has the latest on this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic said she understood all the charges against her. She is alleged to be one of the architects of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the 1992 to '95 Balkan War. Her indictment includes: allegations of genocide; crimes against humanity; violation of the laws and customs and war, including murder; and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.

BILJANA PLAVSIC, FRM. BOSNIAN SERB PRESIDENT (through translator): I have received the indictment yesterday. I understood it fully and I plead not guilty to all counts of the indictment.

RODGERS: Mrs. Plavsic, a former biology professor, was briefly part of the collective Bosnian Serb presidency at the outset of that war. Still at large and wanted for trial is another former president, Radovan Karadzic.

Biljana Plavsic, now 70, was a radical nationalist during the war. The war crimes tribunal is seeking to prosecute and hold responsible Bosnian Serb civilian leaders as well as the military commanders who the tribunal believes carried out the actual war crimes.

STEVE CRENSHAW, JOURNALIST: The fact was she was there and, in rhetorical terms, she was Miss Poison, really. The words that poured out of her mouth during that time were quite horrific, it must be said.

PLAVSIC (through translator): I am not guilty.

RODGERS: Mrs. Plavsic broke with the Bosnian Serb hard-liners about four years ago, and is now considered, relatively speaking, more a moderate. Her trial is scheduled for May, although her attorney suggests it is more likely to be conducted next year. Walter Rodgers, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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