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Milosevic Trial Resumes After 1 Month Recess - 2002-08-26

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is back in court at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, after a month-long recess that followed doctors' warnings about his health. The former leader was in fighting form Monday, as he challenged eyewitness accounts of alleged Serb atrocities in Kosovo.

As Europe's biggest war crimes trial since the end of World War II resumed Monday, Slobodan Milosevic was as defiant as ever.

As he has since the trial began last February, Mr. Milosevic, who was wearing his trademark blue suit and red, white and blue tie, disputed the legitimacy of the court and tried to discredit witnesses who testified about what they said was his government's 1999 crackdown in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

One ethnic Albanian witness, Sadik Xhemajli, told the court he saw Serb forces kill 39 men near the village of Izbica. The self-described former officer in the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army said that, while he did not personally witness other killings, he helped to bury 127 bodies in the days after the killings.

Mr. Milosevic dismissed Mr. Xhemajli's testimony as nonsense and said his trial was a farce.

He adopted the same belligerent attitude toward a second witness, Muharrem Dashi, an ethnic Albanian teacher, who said Mr. Milosevic's forces destroyed one-third of the homes in the village of Stagovo. Mr. Dashi said that, though he did not witness the fighting from his hiding place, he saw the bodies of several ethnic Albanians later. Mr. Milosevic questioned Mr. Dashi's right to testify, saying he had not seen anything.

Despite his combative form, Mr. Milosevic is suffering from heart disease, according to doctors who examined him last month. Presiding trial Judge Richard May says that could have an impact on the pace of the proceedings.

Judge May has given prosecutors until mid-September to wrap up the case against Mr. Milosevic for his alleged actions in Kosovo. After a short break, they are to begin outlining their case against the defendant for what they say was his role in ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia during the early-to-mid 1990s.

Mr. Milosevic faces more than 60 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his alleged role during the wars that accompanied the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia.