Milosevic is warned he may go on trial

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The Independent Online

The new Yugoslav administration signalled yesterday that Belgrade could prosecute the former president Slobodan Milosevic in his homeland.

The new Yugoslav administration signalled yesterday that Belgrade could prosecute the former president Slobodan Milosevic in his homeland.

President Vojislav Kostunica, who had ruled out extraditing Mr Milosevic to the UN war crimes tribunal, may back a domestic trial on ballot-rigging charges, said Mladjen Dinkic, campaign manager of the opposition coalition that brought down the former leader.

He told a news conference in Belgrade that 15,000 citizens had signed a petition demanding the prosecution of all members of the federal electoral commission for falsifying the results of the 24 September elections, which failed to recognise Mr Kostunica's outright victory. Mr Milosevic only grudgingly accepted defeat on Friday.

"We now wait for state prosecutors to also bring charges against Slobodan Milosevic," Mr Dinkic said. Earlier yesterday, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, insisted that Serbia must hand over Mr Milosevic to The Hague, where he is wanted for crimes in Kosovo. "I don't think we can build security and stability unless justice is seen to be done for atrocities of the past," Mr Cook said.

When asked if Mr Milosevic should be handed over, Mr Cook said "Yes."

But he also offered a potentially softer wording, saying he had told Mr Kostunica "that Milosevic will have to be held to account".

Britain is understood to have pressed for the conversation with Mr Kostunica, which was interrupted several times by lost telephone connections and then by the swearing-in ceremony on Saturday night.

By yesterday evening, Mr Kostunica's office said the conversation was "still unfinished". Officials were wary, however, about Mr Cook's perceived attempts to turn the screw. "The stability of this country is a lot more important that any indictment," one source said. "There's a sense of priority. We must get that in order."

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