The International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has ruled that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will face a single trial for atrocities in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo during the 1990s. Mr. Milosevic's trial is scheduled to begin February 12.

The tribunal originally decided to put Mr. Milosevic on trial in two separate proceedings, one for war crimes in Kosovo, and a later one for atrocities, including genocide, in Bosnia and Croatia.

But Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte argued that Mr. Milosevic's actions in all three conflicts were linked to his plan to create a so-called "greater Serbia" through the murder and expulsion of non-Serbs from large areas of Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

On Friday, an appeals chamber at the tribunal found merit in Ms. del Ponte's arguments. It decided that the two trials should be combined into one.

The former Yugoslav strongman is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in all three indictments. But, for his actions in Bosnia the bloodiest of the three conflicts he also faces the charge of genocide.

Mr. Milosevic could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted on any of those charges.

Mr. Milosevic presided over nearly a decade of war in the former Yugoslavia before he was ousted from power in October, 2000. Six months later, the leaders of Serbia arrested him and handed him over to officials of the war crimes tribunal.

The former Yugoslav leader has denounced his trial as politically motivated and illegitimate. He has refused to appoint a defense attorney.

His upcoming trial is considered Europe's most important war crimes trial since top Nazi officials were tried at Nuremberg at the end of the Second World War.