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Milosevic Says War Crimes Charges Are Lies --> Slobodan Milosevic (file photo) 31 August 2004 -- Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic today denounced war crimes charges against him as "unscrupulous lies."

Milosevic today opened his defense case and accused the UN court for the former Yugoslavia of being an "illegal institution."

Rejecting the prosecution's accusation he masterminded the wars in the Balkans in the early 1990s, he said the international community was "the main force for the destruction" of the former Yugoslavia.

"There is a fundamental historical fact that one should proceed from when seeking to understand what led to everything that happened in Yugoslavia from 1991 until today, and that is the violent destruction of a European state, Yugoslavia, which originated from the statehood of Serbia, the only ally of the democratic world in that part of the world over the past two centuries," Milosevic said.

Milosevic is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with the 1990s conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo. For the war in Bosnia that left 200,000 people dead he has been charged with genocide and complicity in genocide.

If convicted, he faces a life sentence.