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Milosevic to Head Party Until 2004

December 19, 2001

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Former President Slobodan Milosevic will remain head of Serbia’s Socialist Party until 2004, despite being in U.N. custody for trial on war crimes and genocide charges, a senior party official said Wednesday.

Ivica Dacic, a top ranking party leader in Serbia, dismissed reports that the party will name a new leader early next year to replace Milosevic, ousted by popular unrest last October and extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

``We have to show solidarity and not replace him before the next congress″ in 2004, Dacic said.

In the meantime, the party will be run by the Secretariat, a collective body of about a dozen of top officials.

Dacic acknowledged that Milosevic’s absence made ``position a bit awkward.″

``He does not interfere much in the work, nor does he insist to, but he is also unable to perform his party duties ever since he was arrested,″ he said.

However, he said Milosevic remains popular.

``Milosevic is defiant, a real patriot and people know how to value that,″ Dacic said.

Milos faces charges of war crimes and genocide stemming from his 13 years as leader of Yugoslavia.

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