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Milosevic: NATO Deliberately Targeted Civilians - 2002-02-15

Slobodan Milosevic has again defended himself against war crimes charges at his trial in The Hague by taking aim at his accusers. The former Yugoslav president is accusing NATO of the same atrocities for which he has been charged and says that it is the alliance that should be on trial.

Friday was the second day of Mr. Milosevic's opening statement before the United Nations tribunal. He continued his verbal onslaught against NATO, accusing it of committing genocide during its 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

He showed graphic photos of what he described as the civilian victims of allied bombing, saying they had been deliberately targeted by NATO.

He also told the court that ethnic-Albanian refugees were killed fleeing NATO bombs in Kosovo, not ethnic cleansing by Serb forces, as the prosecution has charged. "NATO forces bombed a column of between five and six hundred Albanian refugees who were returning to their homes in the village of Karisa," he said. "So, after two months of war, they are still returning home, though you are claiming that the Serb forces are forcing them out. And because they are returning home, they are being bombed by the NATO air force."

NATO has acknowledged and apologized for civilian casualties during its 78-day bombing campaign. War crimes tribunal prosecutors investigated the bombing and concluded that the civilian casualties were unintentional.

But that has not stopped Mr. Milosevic from insisting that NATO should be on trial for what he says are its war crimes. "Now, I'm asking you," he said. "What kind of a tribunal can you talk about if you refuse to try people for all these crimes, crimes committed by the leaders and the governments and the armies of the NATO pact countries that I enumerated, that I quoted, on the territory of Yugoslavia? And you call yourselves a war crimes tribunal for crimes committed on the territory of Yugoslavia?"

Mr. Milosevic is demanding that former U.S. president Bill Clinton and other world leaders be called to The Hague. He says he might want to question them. He accuses NATO leaders and what he calls "Albanian terrorists" in Kosovo of conducting what he describes as a joint enterprise to kill Serbs.