Milosevic wants to call Western leaders to testify

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The Independent Online

Slobodan Milosevic demanded the right yesterday to call the former US president, Bill Clinton, and Robin Cook, the ex-foreign secretary, along with a host of other Western leaders to testify at his war crimes trial.

Launching another verbal onslaught against Nato's "bestial" bombing of Yugoslavia, Mr Milosevic accused Mr Clinton of targeting the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which Nato said it hit by accident during the 1999 air campaign.

The former president of Yugoslavia, who faces 66 counts of war crimes including one of genocide, identified a number of politicians with whom he dealt when in office and who he wanted brought to The Hague. Whether he succeeds depends on legal manoeuvering.

Mr Milosevic needs to compile a witness list and submit it to the court. If the judges in the case agree the Western leaders are relevant to Mr Milosevic's case they could subpoena them to appear.

In any event, the prospect of Mr Clinton or Mr Cook appearing on the witness stand is not an imminent one. If summoned they would not give evidence to the tribunal until after the prosecution had finished outlining its case, which could take 18 months.

Yesterday there was confusion over the potential witness list because Mr Milosevic initially seemed to identify Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, only to retract their names on the basis he had not spoken to either at the peace talks in Rambouillet on the future of Yugoslavia. But representatives of the international committee supporting the former Yugoslav president said Mr Milosevic would seek to call Mr Blair and other Nato leaders.

Others who were named as potential witnesses yesterday included the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan; the former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright; the former German foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, and Bob Dole, the former US Republican presidential candidate.

Talking for his second full day at his war crimes trial, Mr Milosevic produced another lacerating performance, claiming it was Nato that committed war crimes and showing more harrowing pictures of the victims of the alliance's 78-day bombing campaign.

Among the episodes he highlighted were the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, which the Nato alliance has maintained was hit because of a targeting error.

The former Yugoslav president ridiculed the official explanation of how the embassy was struck. "Western diplomats and spies would attend various receptions," Mr Milosevic said, reporting back to national capitals "what they were given to eat for dinner, and what the furniture looked like, and what the tea cups looked like, and then they say they didn't know where the Chinese Embassy was. It is quite clear that Clinton wanted to go down in history as the first man to bomb Chinese territory by bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade," Mr Milosevic said.

He also told the trial that "genocidal" US forces had been the unwitting ally of Osama bin Laden in Kosovo. Mr bin Laden's al-Qa'ida was "one of the fundamentalist groups which sent a unit to fight in Kosovo" alongside Muslim Kosovo Albanians aided by America against Serb forces in 1998-99, he told the tribunal.

"The attacks on New York and Washington show what the terrorism you sponsored looks like when it turns against you," he said.

During his four-hour address to the court, Mr Milosevic disputed the veracity of ITN footage of skeletal men being held in a camp in Bosnia.

The prosecution has already sketched out the case against Mr Milosevic, who faces life in prison if convicted on any of the serious charges. Adopting a policy that the best form of defence is offence, the former Yugoslav president responded to claims he was responsible for atrocities by turning the tables on Nato.

Mr Milosevic highlighted the use of cluster bombs, showing the court a photograph of a Serb peasant woman killed while ploughing her field and the corpses of children dressed in their pyjamas. He called attacks on peasants in fields "insane" and "pointless" and said the death of the womankilled while ploughing was "an example of bestiality ­ targeting people in this way".

Nato had created the "corpses of children who were killed while they were asleep," he said, and produced pictures of bomb-shattered hospitals, an old people's home, houses and workplaces, some strewn with charred and bloodied bodies. "All these crimes are grave, but striking a sanatorium full of patients is something that the person who did it should explain," Mr Milosevic said.

"This entire war was pointless and constitutes a crime. Those who come to kill children who are asleep can hardly sleep well themselves if they are human," he said.