Milosevic request to subpoena Blair, Schroeder rejected by war Crimes tribunal

The U.N. war crimes tribunal hearing the case of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic rejected a motion Friday to subpoena British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Milosevic has repeatedly sought to call Blair, Schroeder and other government leaders to testify about the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, which ended Serbian army action against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

The tribunal panel turned down a submission by two British court-appointed lawyers assisting Milosevic, saying it "finds that the issuance of a subpoena is not warranted in relation to either Mr. Blair or Mr. Schroeder." The three judges said the defense had failed to prove it needed the two leaders' testimony as "a last resort," which is required.

Milosevic is defending himself against 66 counts of war crimes in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s. The former Serbian leader contends that the Kosovo war was an anti-terrorist operation. Prosecutors have charged him with murder, persecution and the unlawful eviction of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes in the province.

The lawyers' submission claimed that Blair and Schroeder "possessed information that was necessary for the resolution of specific issues relevant to the Kosovo indictment," and asked the court to "compel their attendance" at the trial, a tribunal statement said. The two British attorneys, Steven Kaye and Gillian Higgins, listed nine areas of questioning, ranging from NATO's arming and training of the Kosovo Liberation Army to the leaders' involvement with Milosevic at the peace talks in Paris that ended the war.

The British and German governments responded that the questions were too broad to warrant summoning Blair and Schroeder to The Hague. Milosevic was on "a fishing expedition in the form of taking the testimony of a head of government on any and every aspect of his government's policy regarding the Kosovo conflict," said the reply from London cited in the judges' ruling.

Germany said Milosevic was "trying to shift the blame for the disintegration" of Yugoslavia onto NATO, which it said was "absurd." The judges have yet to rule on a proposal to split Milosevic's trial in two, judging Kosovo separately as a way to speed up part of the proceedings. Both Milosevic and prosecutors opposed the idea, though for different reasons.

Milosevic also has asked the tribunal for a six-week recess, citing doctors' report that he needed more rest because of chronic heart problems. The tribunal was likely to rule on the two questions before beginning a three-week winter adjournment, reports the AP. N.U.

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