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Yugoslavia: Milosevic, Mesic Face Off At UN War Crimes Trial

The Hague, 2 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic today denied Croatian President Stipe Mesic's allegations that he used the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army to purge non-Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia. Milosevic, conducting his own defence, cross-examined Mesic at The Hague war crimes tribunal. He said Yugoslavia would not have fallen apart if he had controlled the army. He then accused Mesic of ordering the murder of two Serbs in the 1970s when he was a town mayor. Mesic denied the allegations.

Mesic also denied Milosevic's allegations that Croatian authorities instigated "discrimination and chauvinism" against Serbs. Mesic said allegations that Serbs lived in an atmosphere of fear in Croatia are an "exaggeration."

Mesic was chairman of Yugoslavia's rotating presidency during the violent break-up of the former federation in 1991. Milosevic, then Serbia's president, faces 66 war crimes charges in connection with his role in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

In another development at The Hague, former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic pleaded guilty to one count of crimes against humanity. Plavsic changed her plea at the UN tribunal via a video link from the Balkans.

Prosecutors then dropped seven other charges against her, including one of genocide. She has been named as a possible witness against other war crimes suspects, including Milosevic. But her defense lawyer, Eugene O'Sullivan, said that she has not agreed to testify in any case.

In a court in the Adriatic town of Zadar, Croatian Serb nurse Zorana Banic was sentenced to 13 years in prison for taking part in the executions of 34 Croatian civilians in November 1991 during the Croatian-Serbian war.