Yugoslavia paves the way for extradition of Milosevic

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Yugoslavia looks set today to pave the way for the extradition of former President Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague war crimes tribunal by adopting a special decree on co-operation.

Mr Milosevic tops the list of the tribunal's most wanted men, after being indicted for atrocities committed against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999, along with four of his top aides.

International law experts, as well as the most senior justice ministry officials in Belgrade, are believed to have worked together to prepare the decree. Making a cosmetic concession to Belgrade's constitutional niceties, they dropped the word "extradition" from the decree. Instead, the process is described as a "handing over". The Yugoslav constitution forbids extradition of its citizens to foreign countries.

The Yugoslav government, dominated by the reformist Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), opted for this route after it failed to push a law on co-operation with the tribunal through the federal parliament. The DOS lacks a large enough majority to win a straight vote on the law.

Legal experts based the decree on the fact that Yugoslavia is a member of the UN, and is obliged to implement the laws of affiliated institutions.