Milosevic Says He's Not Suicidal

Slobodan Milosevic says he's not suicidal, is in good health and high spirits, and is convinced he did the right thing for Yugoslavia, said a Canadian lawyer who saw the former president in jail.

``I am the moral winner,'' Milosevic said Monday in an authorized statement through the lawyer, Christopher Black. ``I am proud of everything I did for my people and my country, and everything I did was honest.''

Black spent nearly two hours with Milosevic in an interview room at the U.N. detention unit, a wing of a Dutch prison in the seaside suburb of Scheveningen outside The Hague. A guard was posted on the other side of a metal and glass door, but a U.N. translator was present throughout the conversation, even though the two men spoke in English and had asked to be alone.

Milosevic is charged with responsibility for the murder of more than 600 people and the displacement of 740,000 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999. His crackdown in Kosovo was brought to an end by a 78-day bombing campaign by NATO forces.

``I only exercised the right of every citizen to defend his country and that is why they arrested me,'' Black quoted the prisoner as saying. ``If you are looking for war criminals the right address is not Scheveningen, it is the headquarters of NATO.''

Black, a Toronto attorney, heads an international committee of 200 lawyers, law professors and nonprofessionals interested in Milosevic's defense. In May 1999, he accused NATO of committing war crimes during the bombing in Kosovo — a charge dismissed last year by the war crimes tribunal.

Black, who has appeared as a defense lawyer before the U.N. tribunal on Rwanda, said he has not been hired to be Milosevic's lawyer. So far, Milosevic, who has a law degree, maintains he will represent himself.

Jim Landale, a tribunal spokesman, said Milosevic is allowed two lawyers and two legal assistants. Black could be appointed as a legal adviser, under rules concerning defendants without official counsel.

The lawyer said Milosevic told him he is under 24-hour camera surveillance, and for the first five days of his detention he was unable to sleep because the lights in his cell were kept on round the clock.

After complaining, authorities agreed to keep only a bathroom light lit, ``just enough to let the camera operate,'' Black said.

Milosevic also complained that he is still isolated from other detainees, and wants to be integrated with them. The tribunal has said Milosevic would remain apart from the other 38 war crimes suspects for the first 30 days of his detention.

``Milosevic wants the world to know his health is fine. He's not at all suicidal,'' said Black.

Tribunal officials said previously that Milosevic was under close observation to ensure his well being. They declined to go further, but the tribunal apparently was mindful that earlier this year Milosevic reportedly had threatened to kill himself rather than be taken prisoner, and that both his parents were suicide victims.

The government of Serbia surrendered Milosevic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on June 28, nearly two months after he was arrested in Belgrade on charges of corruption and abuse of power during 13 years as Yugoslavia's leader.

Milosevic faced the tribunal alone at his indictment last Tuesday, when he refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court or enter a plea. The judges recorded a plea of innocent on his behalf.

Black is the first of several lawyers from various countries whom Milosevic has agreed to consult on a defense strategy. Among them is Ramsey Clark, an attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson. Clark had campaigned against the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and has called the tribunal an illegitimate army of the Western alliance.

Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, also was expected to visit her husband this week after applying for a Dutch visa on Friday.