War in the Balkans: Serbs claiming huge damages

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The Independent Online
NATO NATIONS yesterday responded to allegations that the military operation against Yugoslavia was breaking international law and amounted to "genocide". Yugoslavia has appealed to the International Court of Justice in a bid to stop the bombing.

Belgrade is claiming compensation from 10 Nato countries involved for what it alleges is an unlawful campaign. A Yugoslav lawyer, Rodoljub Etinski, told the court in The Hague: "The acts of bombing against Yugoslavia are not just illegal, they [are] a violation of human rights and the perpetration of the crime of genocide."

The Defence Secretary George Robertson called the move a "cynical" ploy. "It is evidence of the duplicity of Milosevic and his cronies that this action includes the accusation that Nato nations violated international agreements concerning genocide," he said. "This is from a regime who have been responsible for summary and sundry acts of murder against an ethnic group."

The Nato spokesman Jamie Shea was equally dismissive, calling the allegations "frivolous".

Although the court can nothalt the bombing (it can only make a reference to the UN Security Council, where Britain, the US and France have a veto on any action), a ruling in President Milosevic's favour would be a major propaganda coup.

Mr Etinski told the court that Yugoslavia's campaign in Kosovo was aimed at suppressing terrorism and that the allies had no right to intervene in an internal conflict. He said that Nato was using internationally banned weapons, cluster bombs and bombs containing depleted uranium, and was arming and training the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Belgrade wants the court to tell the US and Britain to stop the airstrikes. Yugoslavia says that Nato has broken the UN Charter by taking enforcement action without Security Council authorisation and that it has broken the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war.