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Serbs Drop Draft-Dodge Charge Vs. Divac

November 18, 2005

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) _ Former NBA star Vlade Divac was cleared Friday of draft dodging in his native country.

Prosecutors dropped the charges a day after Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica came to the player’s defense. Kostunica said Divac had ``proven his patriotism innumerable times during his long career″ in basketball.

``What hurt me the most was the negative way my country was presented (in the U.S.) through this case,″ Divac said at a meeting with Serbia-Montenegro’s Defense Minister Zoran Sankovic.

Earlier this week, the Serbia-Montenegro army filed the charges, claiming that the 37-year-old Divac was obliged by law to join the army for the compulsory six-month military service by the age of 35. Draft dodging carries a one-year prison sentence in Serbia.

The case drew much attention in Serbia, where Divac is revered as a national hero for helping the former Yugoslavia to silver medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics, and leading the country now known as Serbia-Montenegro to a gold medal at the 2002 world championships.

Divac, who voiced surprise over the charges, said in a statement he had filed all of the necessary documents for postponing army duties on a regular basis with the Serbia-Montenegro embassy in the United States.

Milovan Bozovic, a Belgrade district prosecutor, said the charges were unfounded because all holders of dual nationality are not obliged to serve in the military in Serbia-Montenegro.

Divac has had dual Serbian-American citizenship since living in the United States for the past 16 years.

Divac ended his 16-year NBA career last month, taking a job with the Los Angeles Lakers as a liaison and scout in Europe.

He was one of the first Europeans to have a major impact in the NBA, being drafted by the Lakers in 1989 and later playing for the Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings.

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