The West backed Milosevic 'until he targeted civilians'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Western governments and their intelligence services, including MI6, supported Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on the ethnic Albanian rebellion in Kosovo until he began to massacre civilians, a former agent said yesterday.</p>Ratomir Tanic, 46, who worked for the Yugoslav secret services in the 1990s, told the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague that he had been in close contact with the British, Italian and Russian intelligence services from 1995 to 1998.</p>Mr Tanic â“ who is in a witness protection programme, having fled Belgrade â“ is the first of the so-called political "insiders" to testify against the former Yugoslav president.</p>"Mr Milosevic was given a clear signal by Western countries to curb terrorism, providing he gave a political solution to Kosovo Albanians," he told the court.</p>The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was regarded as a "terrorist" organisation by Western countries as well as by Belgrade, he said.</p>"He [Mr Milosevic] had the unbiased support of the West ... He was also warned that without a political solution, terrorists could become heroes or freedom fighters."</p>Mr Milosevic started to lose Western support when his security forces in Kosovo began to use excessive force against civilians, Mr Tanic said. The slaughter of dozens of members of one family in the village of Drenica in early 1998 was a turning point.</p>Mr Milosevic and a close group of his aides were "obsessed with the number of ethnic Albanians" and the possibility of Kosovo's secession from Serbia, he said.</p>Mr Tanic described a meeting in 1997 that Mr Milosevic had attended. At the time, the population of Kosovo was two million people â“ 10 per cent of the Yugoslav population, and therefore entitled to a degree of autonomy. "They were talking about 'reducing the number of Albanians to a realistic level'," Mr Tanic said. "Mr Milosevic did not say how, but it was clear that there was only one way to do that â“ ethnic cleansing."</p>As the KLA insurgency spread in 1997 and 1998, Mr Milosevic caved in to the demands of the most hawkish elements around him. "Mr Milosevic then established a private chain of command for Kosovo," Mr Tanic said. "He bypassed all the institutions in the country."</p>Mr Tanic testified from behind a screen and his image was blurred on television. He will be "relocated" after the trial to prevent reprisals. </p>