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Directors Object to Milosevic Defense

February 20, 2002

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VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ At his U.N. war crimes trial, Slobodan Milosevic has turned to video clips to give his side of what happened during Yugoslavia’s collapse, to the distress of the directors who made the movies.

The former Yugoslav president so far has used excerpts from three documentaries to assert his claim that he is innocent of the 66 counts of war crimes he faces at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

On Monday, Milosevic showed parts of the documentary ``Yugoslavia, the Avoidable War,″ to back his argument that the 1991-99 Balkan wars were triggered by an alleged Western-backed plan to break up the old Yugoslav federation at the expense of the Serbs.

Milosevic said the video put the blame on Germany and, to a lesser extent, the United States.

Director George Bogdanich said Milosevic misrepresented the 165-minute documentary.

``The point is that the Western powers erred in supporting armed separatists, and when the fighting began, they were no longer in a position of acting as honest brokers,″ Bogdanich said by telephone from New York.

``Certainly (Milosevic) deserves a share of that blame″ for the war, he said.

Journalist Martin Lettmayer, who co-produced the documentary, said Milosevic was misusing the movie.

``Personally, I do feel bad about it,″ he said from Salzburg, Austria. ``We didn’t make a film to defend Mr. Milosevic. We made a film about politics.″

Controversy over the documentary comes after anger over Milosevic’s decision last week to show parts of two documentaries made for the German television network ARD.

Milosevic suggested that the documentaries proved Serbs were not responsible for the massacres in Kosovo, and that the German Defense Ministry had exaggerated the situation to gain support for NATO’s air war on Yugoslavia.

Joerg Schoenenborn, the chief editor of ARD’s TV division, said he felt ``abused″ when he learned that Milosevic used the documentaries at the trial.

He said they were intended as critique of Western governments’ use of the media _ not for Serb propaganda.

``The central accusation was that NATO and the German Defense Ministry bent the truth in order to increase public support for airstrikes on Yugoslavia,″ he said after the footage had been shown in court.

``We have nothing to retract on that score. Milosevic is using it to construct evidence for his theory that NATO acted criminally,″ he said. ``That’s a connection that has little to do with the truth.″

Milosevic is defending himself in the trial. He could face life in prison if convicted on any of the charges.

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