Yugoslavia to give up war crimes suspects

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Yugoslavia has agreed to co-operate fully with the UN war crimes tribunal after the US froze aid worth around $40m (£28m).

Suspects are expected to be handed over to the court in The Hague shortly, the Foreign Minister, Goran Svilanovic, said yesterday.

The government met in crisis session after the country failed to hand over indicted suspects to the tribunal in The Hague before a US deadline of 31 March, triggering the freeze in aid from Washington.

"We [made] a unanimous decision that, as a member of the UN, we are obliged to fully co-operate with the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia] and have asked all state bodies to fully co-operate," Mr Svilanovic said.

Asked if the move meant new handovers, he said: "Yes, I think that after such a decision all state bodies are obliged to co-operate with The Hague, which means ... to arrest those accused of war crimes and transfer them to The Hague."

Mr Svilanovic said the decision also meant that tribunal investigators would have access to Yugoslav archives ­ another point the United States has insisted upon ­ as long as national security was not at risk.

Under US legislation, Yugoslavia's dominant republic, Serbia, can receive most of its remaining financial aid allocation after 31 March only if the Bush administration has certified Belgrade's co-operation with the tribunal.