U.S. to Yugoslavs: 'Turn over' indicted Milosevic
Washington backs war crimes charge
May 27, 1999
YULEE, Florida (CNN) -- The Clinton administration said Thursday it wants Slobodan Milosevic brought to justice before the U.N. war crimes tribunal that indicted the Yugoslav president and four other Yugoslav leaders for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Kosovo conflict.
"He has to be turned over. We want to see him in The Hague," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, referring to the city in the Netherlands where the tribunal is headquartered.
Appearing with Albright at a Washington news conference, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy praised the indictment as "a very strong endorsement... of the basic objectives established (by the 19-nation NATO alliance) ... to stop the repression in Kosovo."
President Clinton welcomed the tribunal's action and said it sent an important message.
"It speaks to the world in saying that the cause we are fighting for in Kosovo is just," the president said in Florida, where he and the first lady are vacationing.
"It will reassure the victims of Belgrade's atrocities in Kosovo and it will deter future war crimes by establishing that those who give the orders will be held accountable," Clinton said of the indictment.
"It will make clear to the Serbian people who is responsible for this conflict and who is prolonging it. I call on all nations to support the tribunal's decision and to cooperate with its efforts to seek justice."
Clinton also said NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia would continue "until our objectives are achieved."
From his vacation residence, the president telephoned British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac to discuss the formal charges against Milosevic.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Clinton also discussed plans for a Kosovo peace implementation force with the two leaders.
The Pentagon said the legal action by The Hague would not change NATO's bombing strategy.
"We can bomb an indicted war criminal as easy as we can someone that we just suspect," said Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson, director of intelligence for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Wilson said it was too early to tell what effect the indictment would have on Milosevic and his inner circle, four of whom were also indicted.
"I would believe, this might be optimistic, but there may be a lot of leadership in the military or security services who would like to disassociate themselves from indicted war criminals, especially if they're not responsible for these kind of atrocities," Wilson said.
Both the United States and Canada hinted the charges should build support among Serbs who want to see Milosevic leave power so that the Kosovo crisis could be ended on NATO's terms.
"It does provide for those within the Serbian regime who are interested in protecting the rule of law in their own country that Milosevic is not the person who can do that," said Axworthy, adding an "alternate" was justified.
Asked on Thursday whether Milosevic would continue in power, State Department spokesman James Rubin replied, "The people of Serbia have to make these decisions."
Axworthy called the indictment an important step in holding Yugoslav officials "responsible for their atrocities," but he acknowledged that the chances of Milosevic being brought before the tribunal anytime soon were slim.
"I wouldn't look forward to an immediate response to that," said the Canadian official, who was in Washington to discuss Kosovo and other matters with Albright.
The United States ruled out granting Milosevic immunity from prosecution as part of a negotiated settlement to end NATO's war on Yugoslavia.
A senior Yugoslav official dismissed the indictment as a political maneuver by the United States and NATO, a charge Rubin denied in an interview with CNN.
"This tribunal was voted on by Russia and by all the members of the (U.N.) Security Council," Rubin said. "It's a United Nations tribunal. It's not an American tribunal. It's not a NATO tribunal. And the Yugoslav authorities know that."
Rubin said the United States has never intended to negotiate NATO's terms with Milosevic and does not intend to change that policy now.
He said the United States has been the main provider of evidence to the tribunal but has always viewed that body's activities as independent. The administration, he added, has always "urged them to follow the evidence where it leads."
Milosevic is the first head of state in office to come under international indictment for war crimes. He and the other leaders are accused of atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The other men are:
Correspondent John King and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report
Trial of aid workers begins in Yugoslavia
Related to this story:
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.