Kostunica opposes Milosevic extradition

BELGRADE, Sep 6, 2000 -- (Reuters) The main opposition candidate in Yugoslavia's presidential election has said that, if elected, he will not let current president Slobodan Milosevic be sent to the UN war crimes tribunal, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

A press officer from Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia confirmed this had been his response to a question on the local Vujic television station in the central Serbian town of Valjevo on Monday evening.

Kostunica, who has a clear lead in opinion polls ahead of the September 24 poll, also criticized the court.

According to the independent Belgrade radio station B2-92, Kostunica told Vujic television that the tribunal was making itself illegitimate by acting as a political rather than a legal institution.

He also noted that Russia, a traditional ally of Yugoslavia, had never been involved in the court's activities.

"The Hague indictment against Slobodan Milosevic is as pointless as last year's NATO bombing of Yugoslavia," Kostunica said, according to B2-92's web site.

Kostunica, seen as a moderate nationalist, is the presidential candidate of the main opposition bloc, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia.

He has criticized U.S. policy in the Balkans during his election campaign and has also said there will be no campaign of revenge against former leaders if he is elected.

Milosevic and four other Yugoslav officials, including President Milan Milutinovic and Defense Minister Dragoljub Ojdanic, were indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia last year for war crimes that Yugoslav forces allegedly committed in Kosovo.

Western leaders say Milosevic should stand trial.

Milosevic and Kostunica are the two leading contenders in the presidential election, which coincides with a parliamentary election and local polls. A survey published on Tuesday gave Kostunica 43 percent support against 21 percent for Milosevic.

Some analysts believe Milosevic, whose allies accuse the opposition of being traitors and NATO lackeys, will declare victory even if he is defeated.

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