Yugoslav war crimes law threatened
PODGORICA, Yugoslavia -- A key Yugoslav party has said it will vote against introducing a law to allow war crimes suspects such as Slobodan Milosevic to be extradited to face charges at a U.N. court.
Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) -- the junior partner in the coalition government -- said all its deputies would vote against the bill, which would allow the extradition of Milosevic to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, in parliament.
SNP spokesman Dragan Koprivica told Reuters: "The SNP deputies in both chambers of the Yugoslav federal parliament have decided to fully support the decisions made by the SNP main board and all the party's local boards regarding the draft law on cooperation with The Hague Tribunal."
The Yugoslav government voted in favour of the law last week, but for it to become valid it must be voted through by federal parliament -- scheduled to meet on Thursday.
Serbia's reformist DOS alliance, which ousted Milosevic last year, dominates the federal government but needs the support of the Montenegrin party to secure an absolute majority in parliament.
Failure to pass draft the law and co-operate with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, could undermine efforts to attract crucial foreign funds for an economy impoverished by a decade of wars and international sanctions under Milosevic's rule.
Differences between Serbian and Montenegrin coalition partners over the new law have unleashed the most serious government crisis since Milosevic was ousted.
Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus warned last Friday the government could fall and the federation could break up if the law was not adopted.
"If the state breaks up, it would not only mean Montenegro going, but also Kosovo. Therefore, this is a serious state problem if the law is not passed in the parliament," he said.
Serbia has a population of nine million people and Montenegro just 600,000.
The U.N. tribunal indicted the former president Milosevic and four of his top aides in 1999 for alleged atrocities committed by Yugoslav forces against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
The U.N. court has demanded a swift handover of Milosevic, arrested in April for alleged abuse of power. The country's new rulers have so far refused the demand, saying they first want to try him at home.
The socialist party does not oppose "co-operation" with the tribunal, but refuses to hand-over Yugoslavs.
SNP party leader Predrag Bulatovic said last week: "We support co-operation with the international community and punishment for all war criminals.
"But we want Yugoslavs to be tried for war crimes in our country."
There was a reminder of the Milosevic era on Monday as Serbian authorities opened security files compiled on tens of thousands of citizens in past decades.
Many opponents of the former president were described as "internal enemies," "extremists" and "terrorists."
Anyone interested in whether they were registered by the State Security department are allowed to see their file if one exists.
The former chief of state security, Rade Markovic, is under arrest and charged with destroying part of the archives.
Meanwhile, the head of a U.N. Security Council team visiting the Balkans called on Monday for increased efforts to boost security in Kosovo.
U.N. Security Council ambassadors held talks with Yugoslav leaders in Belgrade after visiting Kosovo.
"The security situation continues to be difficult...I think additional efforts are needed to improve the security situation," Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, of Bangladesh, leader of the delegation of ambassadors from the 15-nation body, told reporters.
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