Serb minister hits at media after killing

BELGRADE, Feb 11, 2000 -- (Reuters) A powerful ultra-nationalist Serbian minister said on Thursday that Western "state terrorism" was behind the murder of Yugoslavia's defense minister and he branded independent media as accomplices in the killing.

"We are looking for murderers among you who work for foreign intelligence services, you are accomplices to murder, you are the same," Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, visibly upset and angry, told a news conference.

Seselj, the strident leader of the Serbian Radical Party, warned those working for what he described as traitorous media and for the Americans of the "worst possible consequences."

"The gloves are now off, whoever lives by the sword can die by the sword and everyone should keep this in mind," he said.

"You are very wrong in believing that you can kill statesmen off like rabbits here and remain safe. Whoever works for the Americans will bear the consequences. You are paid by American money to destroy your state, you are traitors."

According to Seselj, opposition media had been financed by the West to wage a propaganda war in the country, mentioning several independent newspapers and a radio station.

"You are murderers of your people and your state, potential murderers. You who work for the Americans, from Danas (newspaper), B-92 (radio), Glas Javnosti, Novosti, Blic (newspapers). You are traitors to the Serb people, you consciously work for those who killed Serb children," he said, referring to NATO's bombing campaign last year.

"You do not think that you will survive our possible liquidation. If you do, you are very wrong," said Seselj, a widely feared former paramilitary leader.

Seselj's party in Milosevic's ruling coalition

Seselj's party is one of three members of the ruling coalition of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic was shot dead by an unknown assailant in a Belgrade restaurant on Monday night.

A reporter for an independent radio station present at the news conference said she felt threatened by Seselj's comments.

"How can you feel safe when you have the deputy prime minister threatening you?" B2-92 journalist Antonela Riha told Reuters. "I do not believe that anybody can feel safe."

Seselj, in mentioning B-92, was actually referring to B2-92 which was formed last year after state authorities seized the originally independent B-92 radio during the NATO air war. B-92 is now a state-run news organ.

An opposition leader, Vladan Batic of the Alliance for Change, criticized Seselj. "I cannot see the connection between the independent media and a terrorist act like the assassination of the defense minister," Batic said.

The official news agency Tanjug also blasted independent media on Thursday, accusing them of being involved in the "psychological war" against Serbia.

Like other government officials, Seselj accused the West of being involved in the killing. "This is state terrorism of the United States, Britain and France and probably some other satellite countries."

Western diplomats say the murder may have been committed by paramilitaries who hold the government responsible for the recent killing of popular warlord Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic, or by agents bent on removing possible witnesses against Milosevic, who has been indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

Original article