(E) Milosevic Knew of Srebrenica Plans, Gen. Clark Says
Milosevic Knew of Srebrenica Plans, Gen. Clark Says
Thu December 18, 2003 01:46 PM ET
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By Paul Gallagher and Melanie Cheary
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Slobodan Milosevic knew Bosnian Serbs planned to massacre Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995, ex-NATO commander Wesley Clark told The Hague tribunal in evidence prosecutors said on Thursday was central to their case.
Clark, a U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful who helped negotiate the Dayton accord that ended the Bosnian war, told Milosevic's war crimes trial he discussed the July 1995 massacre of 7,000 Muslim men and boys with Milosevic a month after it happened.
The ex-Yugoslav president, charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, denied he had spoken to Clark about the atrocity, Europe's worst since World War II.
The 62-year-old former Serb strongman dismissed the testimony as a "blatant lie," saying he had been a peacemaker in the Balkans.
More than 200 pages of transcripts of Clark's testimony were posted on the U.N. war crimes tribunal's Web site after the retired four-star general gave evidence behind closed doors on Monday and Tuesday at the request of the United States.
U.S. peace negotiators trying to establish if they should deal with the Bosnian Serbs or Serbian leadership to hammer out a peace deal to end the 1992-95 Bosnian war were told by Milosevic in 1995 to deal directly with him, Clark said.
FACE TO FACE TALKS
"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 General (Ratko) Mladic to kill all those people in Srebrenica?" Clark said.
"And Milosevic looked at me and paused for a moment. He then said, 'Well, General Clark,' he said, 'I warned Mladic not to do this, but he didn't listen to me,"' Clark said.
"It was very clear what I was asking was about the massacre at Srebrenica. When I said 'kill all these people,' it wasn't a military operation, it was a massacre...It was also, to me, very clear what Milosevic was answering," Clark said.
"He was answering that he 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 himself the responsibility of having done it."
Milosevic and wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic are both charged with the Srebrenica massacre. Mladic remains at large and is the U.N. war crimes tribunal's most wanted man alongside Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
"General Clark, I, for example, believe firmly until the present day that General Mladic did not order any execution of people in Srebrenica. I believe this was done by a group of mercenaries," Milosevic said.
Prosecutors said Clark's evidence was crucial to their case against Milosevic. Prosecutors said they want to prove he had "command responsibility" for ethnic cleansing.
"It's extremely important for us because it gave us direct evidence that Milosevic had advanced knowledge of the mass killings at Srebrenica," prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said.
Clark, who directed NATO's 11-week bombing campaign to drive Serb forces from Kosovo in 1999 during a crackdown on Kosovo Albanian separatists, also said it appeared that Milosevic controlled Yugoslav army generals during the Kosovo conflict.
Milosevic ordered a partial pullout of troops from Kosovo in 1998 under threat of NATO air strikes. Clark, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander at the time, had gone to Serbia to tell Milosevic's government to reduce its forces in Kosovo or face air strikes. NATO launched the strikes in 1999 after the failure of peace talks.
"He certainly indicated the ability to control his generals, absolutely. No question about it," Clark told the court.