West provoked war in Balkans, says Milosevic

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The Independent Online

Thirty months into Europe's biggest war crimes trial since Nuremberg, Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, launched his long-delayed defence yesterday with a defiant four-hour tirade.

Thirty months into Europe's biggest war crimes trial since Nuremberg, Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, launched his long-delayed defence yesterday with a defiant four-hour tirade.

After months of delays due to his ill health, Mr Milosevic produced a bombastic performance in court, blaming the West for provoking the war in the Balkans in the 1990s, and accusing the US of encouraging the Islamic terrorism that led to the events of 11 September. Mr Milosevic faces 66 war crimes charges arising from the violence and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia, including one count of genocide. The trial began in February 2002.

Despite the delays due to his health, Mr Milosevic, 63, who is conducting his own defence, appeared in good health as he launched into a speech tailored more to nationalist sentiment in his native Serbia than to the judges in The Hague. He rejected the authority of the UN tribunal, dismissing it as a puppet of Nato, which bombed Serbia in 1999. Mr Milosevic said the accusations were "an unscrupulous lie and a tireless distortion of history".

Mr Milosevic also claimed that Bill Clinton's administration encouraged Islamic terrorism through its support for the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought for independence in the province.

The trial continues.

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