Serbia's defense minister praises convicted war criminal

Serbia's defense minister has praised a convicted war criminal for his role against NATO's 1999 intervention in Kosovo, saying Serbia no longer has to be ashamed of a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

The remarks Saturday by Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin illustrate Serbia's increasing defiance of the West. Serbia is formally seeking European Union membership but at the same time is edging closer to longtime ally Russia.

Vulin says "the time of shame is gone. It's time for a quiet pride."

He was flanked by former Gen. Vladimir Lazarevic, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a U.N. war crimes tribunal for atrocities committed by Serb troops in Kosovo during NATO's bombardment, which stopped the crackdown.

Lazarevic was released from prison after serving two-thirds of his sentence.