Milosevic Surrenders to Police at Eleventh Hour

Charges Against Milosevic

PARIS, April 1 (AFP) - Slobodan Milosevic, arrested in Belgrade early Sunday, is sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Milosevic, who was overthrown in a popular uprising last October after more than a decade as strongman of the Balkans, heads a list of five senior Yugoslav officials sought on charges relating to Yugoslav army atrocities carried out during and prior to the 1999 conflict in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo.
Milosevic's successor as president of Serbia, Milan Milutinovic, has also been indicted over Kosovo, as have Nikola Sainovic, former deputy prime minister of rump Yugoslavia, Dragoljub Ojdanic, former Yugoslav army chief of staff, and Vlajko Stojiljkovic, former Serbian interior minister.
Two former Milosevic proteges, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, have been indicted by the ICTY on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
Karadzic, one-time leader of a breakaway Bosnian Serb mini-state, and Mladic, his army chief, have been lying low since the December 1995 Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian conflict.
Milosevic was indicted by the ICTY in The Hague in June 2000 for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war, becoming the first-ever head of state to be so charged.
While president of Serbia, Milosevic was widely seen as the guiding force behind the separatist Serbian operations in the neighbouring republics, with several Yugoslav senior army officers known to be assisting rebel forces.

BELGRADE, April 1 (AFP) - The armed stand-off between Slobodan Milosevic and security forces ended peacefully early Sunday when the former Yugoslav president gave himself up to the police, officials said.

"We confirm that Slobodan Milosevic has given himself up to justice," a government spokesman told AFP by phone shortly before 5:00 am (0300 GMT).

Radio reports said the ex-leader, charged by Belgrade prosecutors with abuse of power and stealing public funds, was in the capital's central prison.

The sudden surrender came after a tense night of negotiations between an increasingly erratic Milosevic and his entourage, which police said included up to 50 heavily armed loyalists, and a government team.

"He was in a pretty bad mental state," Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac told BBC television, quoting government negotiators.

"He was unbalanced, threatening and showing his gun, saying he will kill himself and his family."

His wife Mira Markovic and his daughters were at his side during the tense stand-off, Korac said.

According to one report, the government mission included a personal visit to the besieged mansion by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica himself.

True to the brinkmanship which has marked his political career, Milosevic left his surrender to the very last minute, after his supporters had thwarted one special police bid to grab him early Saturday and as police geared up for a new assault.

A member of his entourage told a Belgrade radio station an hour before the surrender that talks had broken down and Milosevic appeared set on a pledge not to be taken alive.

But as police deployed in greater force around the outer walls of his compound, officials of his Socialist Party reported an 11th hour breakthrough in the talks.

Fears had been mounting that a bloody battle was inevitable, as the man who led the country through 13 years of war, international isolation and disintegration refused to budge.

Police had earlier cleared the area in the well-heeled Belgrade suburb of scores of Milosevic supporters who had tried to form a human shield to protect their hero from arrest.

"We had made a decision we would storm his house within a few hours," if Milosevic did not give himself up, Korac told the BBC.

He said Milosevic appeared to have been swayed by members of his own Socialist Party who, Korac said, were "aware of the dangers for itself".

The scene had indeed appeared set for police to storm the building.

Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic earlier said last-ditch negotiations were underway but personally held out little hope for a peaceful solution.

"Considering the moves Milosevic made in the past I am afraid that he is not ready to accept a reasonable solution," he said.

But Branislav Ivkovic, head of the parliamentary group of Milosevic's Socialist Party (SPS), later confirmed his boss had gone quietly.

"I want to say that he was not detained, he decided of his own accord to join the judicial procedures against him," Ivkovic told Belgrade radio B92.

"I think this is yet more proof that he has an exceptional character and is honest, a man who respects the people around him and who know how to take the right decision in any situation. It was his decision, it all came down to him," said Ivkovic.

Shortly before a five-vehicle cavalcade sped away from the Milosevic compound, apparently with the ex-leader aboard, five shots were heard from inside the complex wall. No immediate explanation was given as to the origin of the shots.

Milosevic was indicted in May 1999 by a UN tribunal for war crimes allegedly committed in Kosovo, but has been arrested on the lesser charges of corruption and abuse of power.

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