BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Slobodan Milosevic plans to embarrass Western governments by revealing at his war-crimes trial the secret deals that he claims propped up his regime during a decade of bloodshed in the Balkans.
Attorneys for the deposed Serbian president will call for testimony from former U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke and three former British foreign secretaries — Douglas Hurd, Peter Carrington and David Owen — in a strategy designed to implicate the United States and Britain in the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.
Prosecutors at The Hague, meanwhile, have described as “scandalous” the failure of NATO forces, and in particular those of France, to arrest former Bosnian leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the most notorious names remaining on the war-crimes tribunal’s “wanted” list.
Attorneys for Mr. Milosevic, who makes his first appearance before the tribunal tomorrow, will claim Western governments gave him a “green light” for many of his most criticized actions, including the use of force.
Mr. Milosevic “feels that NATO are the real criminals and that will be part of his defense,” said Branimir Gugl, one of Mr. Milosevic’s attorneys.
He said his client will argue that the Western diplomats were involved in negotiating peace deals designed to maintain him in power despite his record.
The attorneys plan to call for testimony from Mr. Holbrooke, the former peace envoy who brokered the Dayton accord on Bosnia-Herzegovina and went on to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. They also will call Mr. Carrington, the chief negotiator for the European Union in 1991 and 1992, and Mr. Owen, who co-brokered the 1993 Vance-Owen peace deal.
Mr. Hurd may be asked to explain his later role as a director of a British bank that struck a lucrative deal with Mr. Milosevic to refinance the Serbian economy.
The Western diplomats are likely to explain that, whatever their misgivings about Mr. Milosevic, his position as “strongman” in the region meant they could not ignore him.
A senior British Foreign Office official said: “We will not be surprised if [our] dealings with Mr. Milosevic are raised during the trial, but in fact our hands are clean. We have nothing to hide.
“The French government may well be nervous about its own friendly relationship with Milosevic right up to 1999 being brought up.”
The French are believed to have maintained communications with the Serbs during the NATO bombing campaign over Kosovo, which was beset by leaks of targets.
Serbs also claim that Gen. Bernard Janvier, a French former U.N. commander, secretly promised to veto air strikes in 1995 provided that the Serbs released 300 U.N. hostages. A month later, the Bosnian Serb army attacked Srebrenica, killing 7,000 Muslims in Europe’s biggest war crime in 50 years.
That massacre provides the grounds for genocide charges against Mr. Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president who has been hiding in Bosnia’s French-controlled sector for a year, and Gen. Mladic, who was his military commander. The general is believed to have moved from Belgrade to hide in the “safety” of the French sector.
NATO officials say Mr. Karadzic could be apprehended with only “limited risk.” The French reportedly have resisted attempts in the past by the British Special Air Service — which has “snatched” the majority of tribunal suspects now in The Hague — to intervene in the sector.
An American newspaper reported that in 1998, a planned swoop on Mr. Karadzic was foiled when a French officer serving with U.N. peacekeepers tipped him off before the raid.
The rumors fueled speculation that a secret deal had been made to protect the reputations of French military officials who negotiated the safe passage of French peacekeepers before the Srebrenica atrocity.
Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, said after Mr. Milosevic’s extradition last week that the continuing freedom of Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic six years after their indictment was “scandalous.”
Mrs. Del Ponte pledged to devote “renewed energy to the task of arresting those fugitives still at liberty.”
Wesley Clark, NATO supreme commander during the Kosovo war, echoed the call for greater commitment to bringing Mr. Karadzic to justice.
“I think Milosevic’s arrest does put greater pressure on France,” he said. “Karadzic has been living in their area. The influence of potential war criminals is an open secret among international officials.”