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Yugoslavia: Milosevic Blames Wars On Western Powers

The Hague, 18 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic today continued his opening defense statement before an international war crimes tribunal, accusing Western governments of provoking war in the Balkans. At the international tribunal in The Hague, Milosevic said the West tried to dominate the former Yugoslavia by fostering internal conflicts.

"There are some people who still haven't realize the truth today, that the war on the territory of the former Yugoslavia is the result of the will and the interest of others -- the great Western powers," Milosevic said.

The former president, who faces charges of genocide in the Bosnian war and crimes against humanity in the Croatia and Kosovo conflicts, depicted himself as a peacemaker who sought political solutions as Bosnia and Croatia fought to secede from Yugoslavia.

Milosevic also rejected charges that he helped former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic persecute Muslims and Croats in the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He said the Yugoslav leadership assisted Serbs in Bosnia, but had poor relations with their leadership.

He denied knowing about the July 1995 massacre in the UN-protected zone of Srebrenica in Bosnia, where more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up and shot under the orders of Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, now the tribunal's two most-wanted fugitives.

The court has told Milosevic to conclude his initial address today, the third day of his defense. Prosecutors are then expected to call their first witnesses.

Milosevic, 60, has been charged with a total of 66 counts of war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. He could be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted on any charge.

A court official told AP the first testimony will come from political and military authorities who will set out an overview of the government system in the former Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict, the first of the three-part trial.

In all three indictments, the prosecution must prove Milosevic either ordered atrocities against civilians or knew about war crimes committed by his subordinates and failed to prevent them or punish the perpetrators.