- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia Faced with a midnight suspension of U.S. aid to Yugoslavia, Serbia issued arrest warrants yesterday against four of former President Slobodan Milosevic's closest associates to face war crimes prosecution.
The development came as tensions soared in the countdown to the deadline issued by Congress to the Yugoslav authorities. The deadline demanded they cooperate with the Netherlands-based U.N. war crimes tribunal or lose $40 million in financial assistance.
Four warrants were issued for former Milosevic associates, including Milan Milutinovic, the current president of Serbia, who remained in his post in Yugoslavia's dominant republic after Mr. Milosevic fell.
Vladan Batic, the justice minister in Serbia, said it was now up to police to arrest the four, whose extradition is sought by The Hague tribunal, where Mr. Milosevic is currently on trial.
"The police will have the final word. They will decide when and how to carry out the [arrest] actions," Mr. Batic said.
Mr. Milutinovic is unlikely to be arrested imminently, since his post though virtually powerless since pro-democracy forces took over the government still provides him with immunity. His term expires at the end of 2002.
Although U.S. financial aid for Yugoslavia was to be automatically suspended at midnight, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is to decide next week whether to continue the support.
Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said the country was "only a step away from the most serious international isolation," blaming his political archrival, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, for lack of cooperation with The Hague court.
Mr. Kostunica has opposed extraditions, considering the U.N. tribunal illegal and unjust. He insists that surrender of war crimes suspects should not take place until a special law is passed.


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