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Yugoslavia: Milosevic Extradition Challenged

Belgrade, 25 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Lawyers for Slobodan Milosevic say they will go to a high court today to challenge a government decree enabling the former Yugoslav leader to be sent to the UN war crimes tribunal. Toma Fila -- Milosevic's top lawyer -- says the lawyers will demand that the constitutional court put the decree on hold until it rules on its legality.

The Yugoslav government adopted the decree Saturday (23 June) that formalizes "full cooperation" with The Hague-based tribunal, including the issue of extraditions.

The United States and its allies yesterday welcomed the decision. But a White House spokesman said it will follow the situation closely to see if Milosevic is actually extradited to the war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Serbian Deputy Premier Nebojsa Covic said yesterday that Milosevic could be extradited to the war crimes tribunal in as soon as 10 days -- and in no more than 23 days.

Milosevic is accused of planning and ordering a campaign of terror, persecution, and violence against the Kosovo Albanians at the end of the 1990s. In other news, a Croat general and four subordinates go on trial for war crimes in Rijeka, Croatia, today.

Mirko Norac is accused of ordering and taking part in the slaughter of at least 24 civilians -- mainly Serbs -- in the Croatian city of Gospic in 1991. Norac is Croatia's most senior officer to be tried before a domestic court for war crimes.

The case has divided Croatia, where many see Norac as a hero in their struggle for independence from Yugoslavia.

Four of his officers, including a colonel, Tihomir Oreskovic, are also charged with war crimes. Like Norac, they claim innocence. All could be jailed for up to 20 years if convicted.