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Milosevic Trial Delayed Again - 2004-02-23


The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague has again delayed the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic because of the defendant's illness.

The court did not set a date for resumption of the trial, in which the prosecution is only two days' away from resting its case.

The latest delay comes one day after the tribunal announced that the presiding judge will resign for health reasons. The proceedings, halted last week because of the former Yugoslav leader's illness, had been scheduled to resume Tuesday. Mr. Milosevic's bouts of high blood pressure and the flu that have repeatedly delayed the trial. The nature of Judge Richard May's illness has not been disclosed, but he plans to step down May 31, when Mr. Milosevic, who is conducting his own defense, is to begin presenting his case.

Tribunal officials said the Judge's departure will not severely disrupt the two-year-old proceedings. But court observers say it could further delay the trial.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected to name a replacement. Mr. Milosevic will have the right to challenge the new judge and could even seek a retrial.

Judge May has established a reputation for firmness and strict courtroom discipline, frequently shutting off the former Yugoslav leader's microphone when he began political rants.

Mr. Milosevic is charged with more than 60 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for his role in the conflicts in the Balkans during the 1990s.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.