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Close Milosevic Aide Surrenders to Hague Tribunal - 2002-05-02

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's right-hand man during the 1999 Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo has surrendered to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Nikola Sainovic faces charges of taking part in a campaign of terror and violence against Kosovo Albanians. Mr. Sainovic, a former Yugoslav deputy prime minister, is the second member of Mr. Milosevic's inner circle to surrender to the court. Former Yugoslav army chief Dragoljub Ojdanic turned himself in to tribunal officials last week. He has pleaded innocent to war crimes charges related to Belgrade's campaign against Kosovo Albanians.

Another close aide to Mr. Milosevic who was indicted for war crimes in Kosovo by the court, former Serbian interior minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic committed suicide last month. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, also indicted alongside the former Yugoslav strongman, is not expected to surrender or be arrested until his mandate ends.

These former top Milosevic insiders are among 23 Serbian war crime suspects who have been urged by the Yugoslav government to surrender or face arrest. But most of the people on that list are refusing to turn themselves in. Belgrade has adopted a harder line toward Serbs indicted by the international tribunal since it enacted a law recently authorizing officials to cooperate with the court.

The shift in policy toward suspected war criminals is part of a Yugoslav effort to persuade the United States to lift a freeze on aid that Belgrade desperately needs to reconstruct the war-torn Serb economy.

Mr. Sainovic was accompanied on the flight to the Netherlands by Momcilo Gruban, who is wanted for murder and torture during his tenure as an official of the Omarska prison camp, where non-Serbs were held during the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995. Upon arrival in The Hague, he and Mr. Sainovic were whisked off to the United Nations detention center, where Mr. Milosevic and other war crime suspects are being held. Mr. Sainovic's lawyer says his client, who was Mr. Milosevic's point man for Kosovo during the crackdown, will enter a plea of not guilty to the charges against him.