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Serbia: New Government To Investigate Milosevic-Era Crimes

BELGRADE, 26 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic says his new reform government will order investigations into crimes committed during the rule of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Djindjic made the remark yesterday (25 January) as the Serbian parliament approved the new coalition government.

Djindjic said people behind political killings and other criminality when Milosevic was in power will face prosecution.

He said Serbs who committed war crimes against civilians would face justice in Serbian courts.

U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte insisted yesterday in Belgrade that Milosevic stand trial at the international tribunal in The Hague.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic have said the country's constitution bars the extradition of its citizens. They also say that attempts to extradite the suspects could cause political instability.

Djindjic said Serbia now has what he called a democratic parliament and a "truly democratic government" for the first time in 60 years

Shortly afterward, Serbia's new government replaced Serbia's secret police chief, an ally of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The move came shortly after the parliament approved the new government last night. Goran Petrovic was chosen to replace Rade Markovic, who reportedly resigned hours earlier.

New Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said Petrovic had considerable experience of internal security work but was not linked with abuses during the Milosevic regime. Mihajlovic said Petrovic could be counted on to democratize the police.

Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic had repeatedly demanded Markovic's removal. Milosevic's foes often blamed the secret police for mysterious kidnappings and murders that characterized the final years of his 13 years in power.