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Clark: Milosevic knew about Srebrenica
( 2003-12-19 09:51) (Agencies)

U.S. Presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley Clark testified that Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic knew in advance about the 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims, according to transcripts released Thursday. Clark's testimony gave U.N. prosecutors the most direct evidence yet linking the former Yugoslav leader to the genocide.

Clark was NATO's allied commander during the alliance's 1999 Kosovo campaign.   [AP] 
Milosevic, during cross-examination, accused the former NATO commander of a "blatant lie," and said he had never discussed Srebrenica with Clark, according to the transcripts.

The retired American general testified as a prosecution witness in closed sessions at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Monday and Tuesday.

The testimony was made public after being reviewed by State Department lawyers, who the Bush administration said did not request any changes. Tribunal officials said one segment of the court hearings was not included, but it was not related to Clark's testimony.

Prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said Clark's testimony was "extremely important for us," and experts agreed it was the most direct evidence so far indicating Milosevic had advance knowledge of the intention to kill Muslim captives at the U.N.-protected zone at Srebrenica.

In an operation commanded by Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in one week in July 1995, and tens of thousands of women were expelled. It was the deadliest civilian wartime massacre in Europe since World War II.

Clark gave an authoritative account of his encounters with Milosevic over 3 1/2 years of Balkan wars. He avoided arguments despite provocation from Milosevic, who suggested Clark left his NATO command early because of character problems and was taking campaign contributions from Albanian separatists in Kosovo for his Democratic presidential nomination bid.

The strongest evidence came in Clark's recollection of a conversation with Milosevic in Belgrade one month after the Srebrenica massacre. Clark was part of a U.S. delegation negotiating a Bosnian peace plan and Milosevic, then president of Serbia, said he could speak on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs.

"I approached President Milosevic as he was standing there in a casual setting outside the formal meeting, and I was still wrestling with the idea as to how it is that Milosevic could maintain that he had the authority and the power to deliver the (Bosnian) Serb compliance with the agreement," Clark said.

"I said, 'Mr. President, you say you have so much influence over the Bosnian Serbs, but how is it then, if you have such influence, that you allowed Gen. Mladic to kill all those people in Srebrenica?'

"And Milosevic looked at me and he paused for a moment. He then said, 'Well, Gen. Clark,' he said, 'I warned Mladic not to do this, but he didn't listen to me.'"

Clark insisted it had been clear that Milosevic "did know this in advance, and he was walking the fine line between saying he was powerful enough, influential enough to have known it, but trying to excuse from himself the responsibility for having done it."

The testimony comes at a critical time for prosecutors who have just 15 days left to wind up their case and yield the floor for Milosevic to present his defense. The trial adjourned Wednesday and resumes Jan. 13 after a Christmas recess.

Judith Armatta of the Washington-based Coalition for International Justice said Clark's evidence was the hardest yet tying Milosevic to Srebrenica, but it fell short of proving his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

"It is important evidence, but it is quite a step away from what they need," Armatta said. "He is accused of genocide and complicity in genocide. That is very hard to prove. They need to show that Milosevic shared the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a specific group of people."

While judges could find Clark's comments incriminating, they could also work in favor of the defense. They could interpret the remark to mean Milosevic tried to prevent a slaughter of Muslim civilians, and had no power over the Bosnian Serbs who committed the murders.

During cross-examination, Milosevic denied the conversation ever happened.

"Gen. Clark, this is a blatant lie," Milosevic said. "First and foremost because we did not talk about Srebrenica at all, and secondly because I, throughout this time, through all of those years, I never issued a single order to Gen. Mladic, or was I in a position to issue him an order."

Milosevic said to Clark, "I, for example, believe firmly until the present day that Gen. Mladic did not order any execution of people in Srebrenica. I believe that this was done by a group of mercenaries."

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