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Ex-Yugo PM Testifies Against Milosevic At War Crimes Trial - 2003-10-23


The last prime minster of pre-war Yugoslavia, Ante Markovic, has accused Slobodan Milosevic of fomenting war in the Balkans. Breaking a 12-year silence, Mr. Markovic told war crimes judges in The Hague that Mr. Milosevic, who was president of Serbia when the war started, was intent on destroying Bosnia.

The aging, white-haired former Yugoslav prime minster, is the first insider to testify about what many others here have only vaguely described - the Serbian and Croatian leaders' plan to carve up Bosnia, and divide it among themselves.

Mr. Markovic testified about a meeting he had with Slobodan Milosevic as early as May of 1991. He said Mr. Milosevic, as president of Serbia, told him that he had discussed the division of Bosnia with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.

The former prime minister testified that Mr. Milosevic told him Bosnia, one of six Yugoslav republics, was an artificial entity created by former Yugoslav President Tito.

Mr. Markovic said he also met with former Croatian President Tudjman, who told him Europe would never allow a Muslim state to be created in its center.

The United Nations War Crimes Tribunal also heard an intercept of a conversation between Mr. Milosevic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is wanted by the court on genocide charges. In the recording, there are details of Mr. Milosevic's plan to arm the Bosnian Serbs.

This is crucial evidence for prosecutors, who need to prove Mr. Milosevic exerted control over events in Bosnia to prove their war crimes charges.

Mr. Markovic and Mr. Milosevic are long-time political enemies, and in court Mr. Markovic refused to look at the man who repeatedly tried to oust him and who, on Thursday, accused him of being responsible for the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Known as a reformer who managed to get rid of inflation during his brief tenure, Mr. Markovic gave up his post at the end of 1991, and had not talked publicly about what happened until his appearance in court on Thursday. Emotions were high in the courtroom, with many journalists from former Yugoslavia eagerly awaiting the arrival of their last prime minister - the man who many say was their last hope of avoiding the war that destroyed their country.

A journalist from Belgrade who covers the tribunal, Mina Vidakovic, said she was happy to see Mr. Markovic. It was under him, she remembers, that she made her first decent salary in the former Yugoslavia.

"This job makes people tough and I'm trying to avoid any emotionality. But yeah, it was like [I was thinking] where we could have been, if he'd succeeded in his mission," he said.

In court on Thursday, former Prime Minister Markovic said Slobodan Milsoevic was not a Serbian nationalist out of personal conviction. Instead, he said Mr. Milosevic promoted Serbian nationalism out of convenience, whenever he needed support to stay in power. Mr. Markovic testified that power was all Mr. Milsoevic was interested in.

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