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Serb President Will Be Handed Over

December 26, 2002

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BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Serbia’s outgoing president will be extradited to a U.N. court to face war crimes charges early next month, the prime minister of Yugoslavia’s dominant republic said Thursday.

Unless Milan Milutinovic surrenders voluntarily, he will be handed over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal when his term expires Jan. 5, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said.

Djindjic urged Milutinovic to ``establish contact″ with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, and to turn himself in.

``The Hague (tribunal) cannot be avoided,″ Djindjic said at a news conference. ``The only question is whether it will be the hard way or voluntarily.″

Milutinovic has held the Serbian presidency since 1997. He was indicted for war crimes committed by Serb security forces in Kosovo in 1998-99, together with his close ally, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is on trial at the court.

Serbian authorities have refused to extradite Milutinovic during his term, citing his immunity from prosecution as the republic’s president. Yugoslavia is made up of two republics, Serbia and Montenegro.

The U.N. court has demanded Milutinovic’s prompt extradition. Last week, its chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, requested that Belgrade ensure Milutinovic’s surrender immediately when his term expires.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said Thursday that ``all indicted must be extradited because we cannot be accepted as members of the international community if we don’t respect international obligations.″

Djindjic said ``there are no legal or technical obstacles for Milutinovic’s departure to The Hague″ once his term has expired.

Djindjic played a key role in last year’s arrest and extradition of Milosevic. Several other key suspects remain at large, including Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader during the 1992-1995 war, and his wartime general, Ratko Mladic.

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