- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2003


Wesley Clark, a former NATO supreme commander, will take a brief hiatus from his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to go to the Netherlands and testify at the U.N. war-crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The retired general said yesterday that the chief prosecutor in the trial at The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, has asked him to appear in mid-December to testify against the deposed Serb leader.

“Because of the historic importance of this proceeding — the first trial of a head of state before a war-crimes tribunal — I have agreed to appear,” Mr. Clark said in a statement.

He said the U.S. government has authorized his participation, and lawyers from the State Department and the Pentagon would accompany him.

His appearance at the trial raises the possibility that questions might arise about a 1994 meeting between Mr. Clark and a Bosnian Serb war-crimes suspect just weeks before the start of the leadoff presidential caucus and primary.

As the former supreme commander of NATO, Mr. Clark led a 78-day bombing campaign in 1999 aimed at expelling Yugoslav forces involved in a bloody crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Mr. Clark also served as director of strategy, plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the mid-1990s, when the United States was trying to negotiate an end to the war in Bosnia.

Mr. Clark told NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday that during his work for the Joint Chiefs and later as NATO commander, he spent dozens of hours in negotiations with Mr. Milosevic.

“These are conversations that the prosecutor says would be significant,” Mr. Clark said. “This is about what Milosevic knew, when he knew it, what his intent was, how he viewed situations, how he operated.”

Mr. Milosevic is facing 66 war-crimes counts, including genocide in Bosnia. He contends he had no power to stop ethnic Serbs from committing massacres in Bosnia after the republic seceded from Yugoslavia.

On NBC, Mr. Clark defended his 1994 meeting with Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, which he had over the objections of the State Department. Mr. Clark was photographed with Gen. Mladic in a picture that showed the two men wearing each other’s military caps. He had also accepted gifts from Gen. Mladic, which Mr. Clark conceded yesterday was a mistake.

But Mr. Clark maintains the meeting itself was not a mistake, and he said he had never been warned not to see Gen. Mladic. After the talks, Pentagon officials said there had been a “breakdown in communication” between the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While admitting that Gen. Mladic was a “bad guy,” Mr. Clark said that the Serbian general had not yet been indicted when they met and that the talks were appropriate because Washington was trying to get the Serbs to sign a peace treaty.

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