Milosevic Legal Team Maps Its Strategy

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Slobodan Milosevic's lawyers arrived at the prison Monday to map plans with their client for his historic court appearance, when the former Yugoslav president must answer charges stemming from his brutal crackdown against Kosovo Albanians.

However, tribunal spokesman Jim Landale said as of Monday afternoon, Milosevic had not submitted the name of any lawyer as his defense counsel ahead of Tuesday's arraignment.

The meeting at the prison with lawyers Zdenko Tomanovic and Dragan Krgovic was intended in part to resolve the issue of who would represent Milosevic at the court session Tuesday.

Milosevic has refused to acknowledge the validity of the court, established by the U.N. Security Council in 1993 to try those believed responsible for atrocities committed in the Balkan wars of the past decade.

He is the first head of state to be indicted by the U.N. court. The United States and its allies claim the 59-year-old former autocrat encouraged and supported the Balkan conflicts.

Milosevic also received an offer of legal help on Monday from Ramsey Clark, who served as attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson. Clark told reporters in Belgrade he was considering joining Milosevic's defense team but that he would insist that Yugoslav lawyers take the lead in the case.

Clark, who had been an outspoken opponent of NATO's bombing campaign of Yugoslavia, said he was holding talks with Milosevic's lawyers. He said the United Nations, "coerced by the USA," was behind the charges against Milosevic. He said he had not spoken with the former president.

Describing the U.N. tribunal as "illegitimate," Clark -- a frequent critic of his own government -- said he would to do "anything I could to address the issues of legality of that court and its jurisdiction and its conduct and to defend Yugoslavia."

At The Hague, the lawyers, Tomanovic and Krgovic, arrived at the tribunal to confer with court officials. They later went to the U.N. wing of a Dutch penitentiary on the edge of this coastal city for the meeting with Milosevic.

It was unclear, however, whether either of them would represent Milosevic at the arraignment. Krgovic said the decision would be made during the meeting.

The meeting was delayed because Milosevic's luggage, which they carried for him from Belgrade, got lost at the Amsterdam airport, Tomanovic said. The luggage contained the clothes Milosevic would wear at Tuesday's hearing.

Milosevic has been held in a single-occupant cell since Friday, after he was handed over to tribunal officials by the pro-democracy government in Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic.

Also Monday, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and other Serb pro-democracy leaders held talks about the composition of a reshuffled Yugoslav Cabinet, following the resignation last week of the Yugoslav prime minister, Zoran Zizic, over the extradition.

Milosevic and four close aides were indicted by the tribunal in May 1999 on four charges in connection with the Kosovo crackdown, which ended a month later after a 78-day NATO bombing campaign and the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces.

Milosevic is the only one of the five accused in custody. Tribunal officials expect to file new charges against Milosevic by October in connection with wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which he purportedly encouraged and supported.

On Tuesday, Milosevic, who was removed from office in October, will appear in a compact courtroom in the gray tribunal building in an outlying district of this coastal city.

He will be asked by trial judge Richard May to respond individually to each of the four charges: deportation, a crime against humanity; murder, a crime against humanity; murder, a violation of the laws or customs of war; and persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, a crime against humanity.

He faces life imprisonment if convicted of any of the four charges.

If Milosevic refuses to enter a plea, the court will grant him 30 days to think about it. If no written plea is entered by then, the court will enter a "not guilty" plea for him so the trial can proceed -- probably next year.