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NATO: Alliance Defense Ministers Reject War Crimes Charge

Brussels, 8 June 2000 (RFE/RL) - NATO defense ministers today again rejected claims that NATO committed war crimes during its bombardment of Serbia and its Kosovo province. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Walter Slocombe told reporters that the defense ministers discussed the war crimes claims during the first day today of a two-day meeting in Brussels. He said they welcomed a statement by Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague, that the charges were unfounded.

"A number of speakers welcomed the declaration, which the secretary-general noted, by Carla del Ponte, the head prosecutor for the international criminal tribunal for Yugoslavia, in which she declared that there was no basis to investigate allegations of war crimes by NATO in the course of carrying out the air campaign in response to the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo."

The international human rights watchdog group, Amnesty International, has charged that NATO's bombing campaign in Kosovo, in which civilians died, constituted a war crime. The accusation was denied yesterday by NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.