World leaders welcome extradition of Milosevic


LONDON, AP

World leaders, praising the extradition of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to face charges of war crimes at the Hague, acknowledged that now they face pressure to quickly reward the Balkan country’s democratically elected government.

“The obstacles that so far stood in the way of giving aid both bilaterally and multilaterally, and giving aid quickly, have been removed,” German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told reporters in Berlin.

Yugoslavia’s democratic government in power since the former president’s fall last year now deserves “a democratic dividend,” Schroeder said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Milosevic’s handover to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal should boost pledges of aid for the Balkan nation at an international donors’ conference in Brussels on Friday.

“This has been a courageous decision by the government and it is a further step on the road to reintegration into the international community,” said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office.

The 43-nation Council of Europe, the continent’s largest human rights organization, applauded the handover, saying it demonstrated Yugoslavia’s “commitment to justice and the rule of law.”

Italy’s Foreign Affairs Minister Renato Ruggiero called the handover an advance in Yugoslavia’s bid to”start over once and for all” and move “toward a future of peace and justice.”

Milosevic, 59, who was moved to The Hague on Thursday, has been in jail since April while local allegations of abuse of power and corruption were investigated. He was indicted by the U.N. tribunal for alleged atrocities committed in Kosovo during an offensive two years ago against the province’s ethnic Albanian population.

About 10,000 ethnic Albanians were estimated to have died in the crackdown, which ended after intervention from NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign.

Milosevic’s handover dominated the front page of European newspapers, with most celebrating the move.

Germany’s mass-circulation Bild daily applauded the development under the headline: “Finally — butcher Milosevic extradited.”

“It is proof positive that Serbia is willing to shed its past and fully embrace democratic Europe,” Britain’s The Times wrote in an editorial. “It is a signal that, in this continent at least, dictators bent on genocide as an instrument of policy cannot rest easy.”

In a statement issued by NATO headquarters, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said Milosevic was “associated with the darkest periods in the modern history of Yugoslavia and the Balkans,” and said the trial would enable Yugoslavia “to rejoin the European family of nations.”

But not everyone supported Milosevic’s handover. Russia condemned it, warning that it could destabilize Yugoslavia by “playing into the hands of the separatists in Kosovo and Montenegro.”

“Most likely, they will not fail to take advantage of the current situation,” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “And if things keep going like that, it is not hard to predict what all this will lead to.”

Greeks, who broadly opposed NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 to end the crackdown in Kosovo, criticized Milosevic’s transfer and complained that the Balkan countries’ constitution had been ignored.

The communist party called for a rally to be held in central Athens to protest the move.

“Milosevic in the hands of murderers” read the banner front-page headline of Rizospastis, the Communist party newspaper.”For a fistful of dollars” read the headline in the conservative broadsheet Kathimerini.

Milosevic’s extradition also caused controversy at home, where his successor, Vojislav Kostunica, denounced it as “illegal and unconstitutional.” Others accused Serb Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who spearheaded the decision, of”treason” and buckling under U.S. pressure.

But in a Kosovo village of 2,000 people where Milosevic’s forces killed 45 ethnic Albanians, there was a palpable sense of relief that Milosevic is finally to stand trial on war crimes. However, there was also rage and grief over the carnage that Milosevic’s crackdown left behind.

“It is not only him who is responsible _ there are lot of others wandering freely in Serbia,” said Libade Azemi, whose husband was decapitated in Racak, Yugoslavia.

Amnesty International said now the Yugoslav authorities must follow up Milosevic’s handover with the transfer of “all publicly and secretly indicted suspects.”

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post, the leading English-language newspaper, carried two stories about the handover of the former dictator on Thursday, including one with the headline: “Milosevic cronies wait for their turn.”