- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

Clark and Milosevic

Wesley Clark, former commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and current Democratic presidential candidate, has been subpoenaed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as a witness against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The retired four-star general will take time out from campaigning to appear Dec. 15 and 16 before the ICTY.

In an unusual procedure, his testimony before the U.N. tribunal at the Hague will be conducted behind closed doors and sealed for at least 48 hours, while U.S. government representatives comb it for violations of “national interests.” In addition, two Pentagon officials will be present during the questioning and Mr. Milosevic’s cross-examination.

After Washington petitions for revisions or corrections, if any, and the judge grants them, the tape of Gen. Clark’s testimony will be released to the media and entered into the court’s public record.

The tribunal’s rules of evidence and procedure allow governments to control over the release of testimony and documents, but this is the first time the words of a witness have been vetted so carefully.

“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,” the candidate said on his election Web site. He also noted “the powerful message it will send to other leaders in other nations: that the international community will not stand by in the face of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

As NATO commander, Mr. Clark directed NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign in Kosovo. He also was the chief military negotiator of the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the first Balkan war. By his own account, he spent scores of hours with the Serbian strongman and says he knew and understood his enemy.

Mr. Milosevic is conducting his own defense against 66 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICTY cannot impose the death penalty, but the former Yugoslavian president could face life in prison if found guilty.

Undiplomatic words

Mexico’s ambassador to the United Nations, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, bid his government a highly public “adios” on Thursday, announcing to the U.N. press corps that he would quit his post immediately rather than serving out Mexico’s last six weeks on the U.N. Security Council.

On Wednesday, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez fired him, effective Jan. 1, after Mr. Aguilar Zinser complained about Washington’s disparaging view of Mexico.

“It’s very clear that I have to leave the U.N. at this point,” Mr. Aguilar Zinser said. The affable and outspoken ambassador said he likely would stay in the United States for awhile, possibly to pursue some “tempting” academic offers.

The contretemps began two weeks ago, when he told university students at the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City that “unfortunately, the understanding that the political and intellectual class of the United States has of Mexico is a country whose position is that of a backyard.”

“The relationship between Mexico and the United States doesn’t go beyond a weekend fling, since that country is not interested in establishing a relationship of equals,” Mr. Aguilar Zinser added.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell dismissed Mr. Aguilar Zinser’s comments as “outrageous.”

The ambassador was an energetic member of the U.N. Security Council, but it is clear that he and his government were out of step.

Shortly after the bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad, his delegation reintroduced a council resolution in support of U.N. and other relief workers, almost daring Washington to veto it by including language in support of an International Criminal Court. Last-minute arm-twisting produced language that everyone could live with.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan paid the diplomat an unusually warm compliment after the resignation.

“We will miss you,” Mr. Annan said. “And you can leave with the full knowledge that you’ve made a difference.”

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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