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Rugova Testifies Against Milosevic in The Hague - 2002-05-03

Kosovo's President, Ibrahim Rugova, has testified against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal. Two old adversaries clashed Friday although this time the tables were turned in a United Nations courtroom. Former President Slobodan Milosevic, who is defending himself, listened as current President Ibrahim Rugova accused him of trying to destroy Kosovo through violence and war.

Without looking at Mr. Milosevic, the soft-spoken professor, in his trademark silk scarf, told judges how Mr. Milosevic repressed Kosovo's Albanians through "violent measures," how the Serbs never negotiated in good faith and how he himself was kept prisoner of war inside his own house during NATO's 1999 bombing campaign.

Mr. Rugova said he was forced to meet with President Milosevic and sign so-called agreements that were never implemented. One of those meetings was shown widely on TV and in the press in the midst of NATO's bombing.

Friday, for the first time, Mr. Rugova confirmed that his appearances were made under duress, that if he hadn't gone when the president called him, there would have been consequences.

When Slobodan Milosevic got his chance to cross-examine Mr. Rugova, Judge Richard May said his questions were a waste of time. The judge gave Mr. Milosevic a little more time to conclude next Monday, telling him to stick to the evidence, like defending himself against Mr. Rugova's claims that he is responsible for massacres.

In the same court, just one hour later, Mr. Milosevic's former deputy Prime Minister pleaded not guilty to charges of persecution, murder, and deportation in Kosovo, the same charges his former boss is now on trial for.

Nikola Sainovic turned himself over to the Tribunal on Thursday saying he will fight for the truth. Prosecutors say he was the president's point man in Kosovo, and in his testimony Friday, Ibrahim Rugova said he believed Mr. Sainovic was the top authority in the province. Mr. Sainovic will face trial later along with Yugoslavia's former army chief, also in custody in The Hague.