- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Former U.S. officials warned yesterday that "unflattering details" might emerge about "individual statesmen" in Western Europe during the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, scheduled to make his first appearance before the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague today.
But both current and former officials insisted that Washington had no reason to be concerned about Mr. Milosevic's declared intention to reveal secret deals he claimed he had made with Western governments during a series of wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.
They also said Mr. Milosevic's attempt to embarrass Western leaders with personal vendettas should have no serious effect on the outcome of his trial.
A senior State Department official, calling Mr. Milosevic's threats "absurd" and with "no bearing on the case," said: "It's Milosevic who is on trial, not the United States or the international community."
The former president was handed over to The Hague on Thursday to face charges of war crimes against civilians in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
The United States was often criticized during the last decade for doing business with Mr. Milosevic, thus helping his regime survive.
But Madeleine K. Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, said she "never authorized any secret deals" with Belgrade or "would never have let one be implemented."
"I thought Milosevic was the problem, not the solution," she said in an interview yesterday. "Our policy was to pursue a democratic Yugoslavia as a normal country in Europe, and he tried to stay in power by denying democracy."
Gen. Wesley Clark, former supreme allied commander of NATO, said of Mr. Milosevic's threat to expose secret deals: "There is nothing to worry about to the best of my knowledge."
He said, however, that this might not be the case with some European leaders.
"There may be individual statesmen Milosevic will reveal unflattering details about, but their nations will see what the real issues are," he said, referring to the charges against the former strongman.
Over the weekend, attorneys for Mr. Milosevic said he would name former British foreign secretaries David Owen, Peter Carrington and Douglas Hurd in his trial. Richard C. Holbrooke, the broker of the 1995 Dayton peace accords and later U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also is expected to be asked to testify.
Among the reports about questionable dealings Western officials made with Mr. Milosevic has been an account of Lord Hurd's role after he left office, in a deal with the Serbian government on behalf of the National Westminster Bank, where he became deputy chairman in late 1995.
The deal secured a $15 million contract for the company to advise on the privatization of Serbia's telecommunications service, PTT.
Lord Hurd has denied accusations of wrongdoing and yesterday said through an aide he wouldn't comment publicly on the case.
At the same time, Italian magistrates are investigating accusations that bribery was involved in Telecom Italia's purchase of 29 percent of the Serbian company.
Former U.S. officials yesterday recalled reports that the wife of outgoing Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, Donatella, was involved in that deal.
They also noted intensive speculation that France in 1995 promised Mr. Milosevic "inactivity on arresting war criminals" in exchange for the release of two French pilots held captive by the Serbs.
"If it comes out that Milosevic has made a bunch of arrangements with European negotiators, that reinforces the need for the United States to be at the table from the beginning," said Jim O'Brien, special adviser for the Balkans to both Mr. Clinton and Mrs. Albright.
He noted that U.S. reluctance to become involved in Bosnia before mid-1995 produced a series of failed peace agreements brokered by the Europeans.
"Private deals can't work in a situation like this," he said. "It has to be done in a transparent fashion, on the basis of principles everyone understands. No deals with godfathers can produce a lasting settlement."
U.S. officials yesterday also denounced Mr. Milosevic's apparent intention to divert attention from his own guilt at The Hague, citing examples of attempts he has made over the years to mislead them.
During the 1995 Bosnia shuttle diplomacy, Gen. Clark said, Mr. Milosevic would "make mischievous charges," such as when he once left the room for a telephone call from French President Jacques Chirac and said upon return, "Chirac is against your bombing."
"That was clearly not true," Gen. Clark said.
He said the people who should be worried by Mr. Milosevic's trial are the Russians. "His arrival is a clear signal that governments cannot attack, torture and murder their citizens," he said, alluding to Moscow's handling of a rebellion in the breakaway province of Chechnya.
Mr. Milosevic's attorneys yesterday started mapping plans with their client for his court appearance, but tribunal spokesman Jim Landale said Mr. Milosevic had not submitted the name of any lawyer as his defense counsel.
After meeting for three hours with Mr. Milosevic, defense attorneys Zdenko Tomanovic and Dragan Krgovic told reporters that Mr. Milosevic refused to accept the validity of the court, and that he would appear alone today without an attorney for his first public appearance.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide