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Slobo: U.S. Sought Help With Osama

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic told the U.N. tribunal Tuesday that Osama bin Laden was in Albania last year, and the U.S. asked for his help in apprehending him.

Milosevic's temper again flared up in court at a hearing to schedule his trials for war crimes in Kosovo and Croatia. The Kosovo trial was tentatively set for Feb. 12, but could be delayed by months if combined with other cases against him.

He told the U.N. war crimes court on Tuesday it was a farce that operated at the level of a "retarded seven-year-old child" and accused it of inciting "terrorism" against Serbs.

Milosevic, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo and is expected to face charges of genocide in Bosnia, accused the court during his fourth pre-trial appearance of persecuting him and the Serb people.

"Please go and read out the judgments you are instructed to read and don't bother me and make me listen for hours on end to texts that are at the intellectual level of a seven-year-old child," he said after listening to the indictments on Monday.

"Or rather let me correct myself — a retarded seven-year-old child," the 60-year-old ousted Yugoslav president said in a highly charged display of contempt for a court he has branded an illegal tool of his NATO enemies.

The presiding judge, Richard May, interrupted Milosevic, telling him to restrict his comments to any complaints he had about his detention.

"Is that all I have the right to say?" Milosevic retorted.

He said the U.S. government had turned to him for help in tracking down bin Laden, who was believed to be behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"The previous American administration knew that bin Laden was in Albania two years after he blew up their embassies and they discussed these facts with me and my associates," Milosevic told the judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Albanian authorities have repeatedly denied foreign media reports that Osama bin Laden had visited in recent years. On Sept. 21, Joseph Limprecht, U.S. ambassador to Albania, said the U.S. government had no such reports and he commended Albania for expelling Islamic extremists.

Milosevic was in court for nine hours Monday, his third appearance since he was extradited from Belgrade on June 28. As before, he refused to cooperate, rebuffed the court's request to plead to his indictments, and argued angrily with May.

The communist functionary turned Serb nationalist hero, who has a family history of suicide, asked the tribunal to end its round-the-clock observation of him in his cell at the U.N. detention center that has been his jail for four months.

"I would never commit suicide because I must struggle here to topple this tribunal and this farce of a trial and the masterminds who are using it against the people who are fighting for freedom in the world," a fiery Milosevic told the court.

Earlier, Chif Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte made it clear Milosevic will face months of testimony from hundreds of witnesses and a blizzard of documentary evidence linking him to war crimes in Croatia and Kosovo.

Del Ponte told the court she will need 170 days to present her case against the former Yugoslav leader on five counts of murder and persecution in Kosovo in 1999, and about the same to prosecute 32 counts of war crimes in Croatia beginning in 1991.

The Swiss prosecutor said she also will present an indictment for alleged crimes in Bosnia, which she has previously said will include the most serious crime of genocide.

If all three indictments are tried separately, Milosevic could be in court for three years. Del Ponte said she will request that the three trials be combined.

The court entered pleas of innocent to all charges in Croatia, and to an amendment to the Kosovo indictment. Milosevic stands accused of responsibility for the deaths of nearly 900 Kosovar Albanians, the deportations of 800,000 people and sexual assault by Yugoslav army troops.

At Tuesday's hearing, Del Ponte said 228 witnesses were lined up to testify on Kosovo alone. She also would present 500 documents, 167 videos, 775 photographs, 30 maps and hundreds of forensic reports.

On Croatia, she said 255 witnesses may be summoned, including archeologists, historians, military experts and pathologists. The prosecution would need up to five months to prepare for that trial.

Milosevic has refused to accept a defense lawyer and said he will represent himself during the proceedings.

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