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Milosevic fever adjourns trial hearing

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands, March 18 (UPI) -- The U.N. war crimes tribunal adjourned Monday's session in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic until further notice because the former Yugoslav president had developed a fever, tribunal officials said.

Presiding Judge Richard May said prosecutor's couldn't call their witnesses in Milosevic's absence.

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"There is nothing we can do in his absence because he is defending himself," he said.

A doctor who examined him said Milosevic had caught a cold that since Saturday had developed into a fever. His illness comes after almost daily hearings since Feb. 12 of largely ethnic-Albanian witnesses.

Milosevic is accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia during its break up in the 1990s.

On Friday, Lord Paddy Ashdown, the one-time leader of the Britain's Liberal Democrat Party who is due in May to take the post of U.N. High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, testified before the three-judge panel.

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Under Milosevic's questioning, Ashdown presented his personal impressions of the conduct of Yugoslav security forces in the Serb province of Kosovo. Ashdown toured the region in the fall of 1998, before he visited Milosevic in Belgrade on Sept. 29.

"I told Milosevic that what I had seen in Kosovo had convinced me that the Yugoslav army's actions could only be described as punitive and indiscriminate, that excessive force was being used for the purpose of terrorizing and expelling the civilian population, and that the tactic used was that of 'scorched earth,'" Ashdown said.

"I warned him that continuation of such actions would compel the international community to react and that he would be accused of war crimes at the Hague tribunal."

Asked by a judge how Milosevic responded, Ashdown said the former Yugoslav president at first denied anything like that was happening, and then conceded this perhaps was taking place but the forces involved were not under his control.

Ashdown said Milosevic promised he would carry out an investigation and that those responsible would be punished, added Ashdown.

According to Ashdown, Milosevic said Yugoslavia had the right to fight terrorism. The Yugoslav government regarded the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army a terrorist group.

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Milosevic had said terrorism was the central issue in Kosovo, blaming Western countries and intelligence services for its growth in the region, Ashdown said.

Ashdown told the judges Milosevic said the international community wanted to destabilize Yugoslavia and the Balkan region. According to Milosevic, Western countries provided assistance to the KLA in response to the 1998 meeting of Balkan leaders to forge regional cooperation, Ashdown said.

Ashdown said he told Milosevic the forces were not engaged in anti-terrorist action. In the courtroom, he ran a videotape of houses on fire in the western Kosovo town of Junik and interviews with refugees.

"The refugees complained that attacks on villages and expulsions of Albanians were followed by large trucks with trailers to ferry away looted Albanian property," Ashdown said. He said he had seen a number of such trucks on the Pec-to-Djakovica road.

Ashdown also said he was aware that the KLA had been supplied with arms from northern Albania and that its members launched attacks on the army, police and civilians of Serb nationality.

The last time Milosevic was reported ill was during the three months he was held in a Belgrade prison before being extradited to The Hague tribunal on June 28. On one occasion, his family alerted the authorities that he had a heart complaint and was running a dangerously high blood pressure. He was taken to the main military hospital in Belgrade where a team of nine doctors found he needed treatment for elevated pressure but no hospitalization. He was sent Milosevic back to jail.

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On another occasion, his lawyers raised the alarm that Milosevic was gravely ill and close to death. He was rushed to the same hospital, but doctors again concluded he could return to his cell.

Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic commented at the time that Milosevic was "playing up his bad health."

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