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Milosevic trial splits Serb views

By CNN's Alessio Vinci

BELGRADE, Serbia (CNN) -- There is concern in Serbia that the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague may find the whole nation of Serbia on trial in the eyes of the world.

Opinion polls and analysts say a majority of the people here believe Milosevic is guilty mainly for what he has done against his own people.

But only one third thinks he has committed war crimes, and more than half of the citizens are not able to list a single war crime carried out by Serbs.

Srdjan Bogosavljevic, of the Media Reserach Institute, said: "People are not really convinced about the whole bulk of war crimes that is committed, at least they are not ready to accept that this is a crime only committed by Serbs."

Opinion polls also show that an overwhelming majority of people here believe the Hague tribunal is biased against Serbs.

Mainly because the high-profile case against Milosevic -- analysts say -- has made him appear to be the only culprit of a decade of Balkan wars.

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Milosevic supporters -- there are a few thousand left -- are isolated in their belief Milosevic is a hero. But they do share similar feelings.

Socialist party official Ivica Dacic, one of a number of supporters who joined a demonstration in support of Milosevic, said: "It is not a matter of one individual, or one party, it is a matter of the whole Serb nation.

"We have gathered here to express our support to Milosevic and to all those illegally indicted by the Hague tribunal."

But most Serbs also understand that co-operation with the Hague tribunal is essential to ensure economic recovery.

Billions of dollars of international aid are linked to the extradition of not just Milosevic, but of some of his former closest allies as well.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said: "The point of cooperation with the Hague tribunal lies in the transfer of the indicted to the Hague, and there is no cooperation without that element.

"That means that with our future cooperation some of the main suspects will surely end up at the Hague."

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However, if there is one place in Serbia where there is no doubt whether Milosevic is guilty, that is Kosovo.

The beginning of the Milosevic trial will finally open a serious debate in this country over the issue of war crimes.

But many here would feel better if the debate were not a response to actions by an outside court.



 
 
 
 


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