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Milosevic says health bad, repeats release bid

Written by: Staff
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THE HAGUE, Feb 22 (Reuters) Slobodan Milosevic asked the U N war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Wednesday to speed a decision on his request for provisional release to travel to Russia for medical treatment, saying his health is worsening.

''I have a lot of noise in my head,'' the former Yugoslav president told the court. ''These symptoms are getting worse and they make me very tired.'' Milosevic's heart condition and high blood pressure have repeatedly interrupted his trial on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes which started four years ago.

Milosevic made the request to travel to Moscow for specialist treatment in December. Judge Patrick Robinson told him the court would decide on the request this week.

Milosevic's renewed appeal for release came amid rumours that former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic one of the six remaining fugitives still sought by the Hague tribunal was either under arrest or being talked into surrender.

Prosecutors suspect Milosevic's wife and son live in Moscow and have opposed his bid for release despite a promise by Russia to return him. They fear the 64-year-old could say his health stops him from travelling back to The Hague.

Russia and Yugoslavia were close allies in the 1990s, and Moscow opposed the NATO bombing campaign that led to Milosevic's overthrow in 2000. Milosevic was sent to The Hague in June 2001.

Two cardiologists treating Milosevic in The Hague have warned he is at risk of a potentially life threatening condition known as a hypertensive emergency, when surges in blood pressure can damage the heart, kidneys and central nervous system.

Milosevic has used up more than four-fifths of the 150 days allotted for his defence, suggesting the case could be wrapped up in the next few months, barring any new delays.

Judge Robinson said today the court did not plan to grant Milosevic more time for his defence and would only reconsider if he used his remaining time efficiently.

Milosevic asked the court to rule soon on his request to subpoena former U S President Bill Clinton and retired U S general Wesley Clark to appear as witnesses.

''We are dealing with personalities who played a key role in the wars,'' he said. ''If you procrastinate in making your decision any longer ... we won't have time to do it.'' Judges decided last year not to call British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Milosevic wanted them to testify to support his defence that he was a peacemaker in the 1999 Kosovo conflict and that the West had committed war crimes.

Blair and Clinton were the main Western leaders behind NATO's 11-week bombing campaign to halt Serbian repression in Kosovo, and Clark directed the bombing. Schroeder was German chancellor at the time.

REUTERS SB KN1648

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