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Milosevic to argue that he’s a victim of NATO revenge

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BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Slobodan Milosevic plans to tell the U.N. war crimes tribunal when he appears before it this week that he is being put on a show trial, the victim of NATO revenge because he refused to give up Kosovo, his lawyers said Sunday.

Milosevic is to appear Tuesday before the tribunal for an initial hearing after he was extradited Thursday to The Hague, Netherlands. He has been indicted for alleged involvement in Kosovo atrocities during the crackdown he ordered in 1998 on the Serbian province's ethnic Albanian majority.

Asked about strategy, lawyer Branimir Gugl told Associated Press Television News: "We have not been working on the defense . . . (because) Mr. Milosevic does not recognize the tribunal."

Gugl said his client continues to assert that his is "clearly a political trial, based on the fact that he is the only man who stood up against NATO." Milosevic has repeatedly said he does not recognize the tribunal's jurisdiction.

Milosevic's refusal to pull out his forces from Kosovo despite a NATO ultimatum provoked 78 days of bombing by the alliance, stopped only in mid-June 1999, after he gave in and ordered his troops out of the province, permitting U.N. administrators and NATO-led peacekeepers in.

Reflecting the trademark defiance Milosevic has exhibited throughout his weeks-long battle to avoid extradition, Gugl said the former president told his wife, Mirjana Markovic, in a phone call from The Hague that he had no regrets.

"He was working for the interests of the Serbian people as president, and if he were to be head of state again, he would act the same way," Gugl said. Milosevic is Serb and Serbia is the larger and far more powerful of the two remaining Yugoslav republics.

"He is in fantastic psychological condition," Gugl said of Milosevic, citing his wife. "He says he is not guilty of anything."

Gugl said Milosevic requested "books, fresh clothes and money," during the phone call.

Before his extradition, Milosevic had been awaiting trial for alleged corruption and abuse of power in a Belgrade prison, and domestic investigations had recently widened to his alleged links to covering up Kosovo atrocities. Although he was extradited before any domestic trial, his lawyers claimed Sunday that they had proven their client innocent and the same defense team would be representing him at The Hague proceedings.

Milosevic was handed over by the Serbian government, in defiance of a Constitutional Court ruling that suspended a federal government decree allowing his extradition.

Calling the handover a "turning point," the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said Friday that the Kosovo indictment against the former Yugoslav president would be expanded.

Del Ponte said the new indictment accused Milosevic of command responsibility in the deaths of more than 600 Kosovo Albanians, twice the number of names cited when he was first charged in May 1999.

An estimated 10,000 Kosovo Albanians were killed during Milosevic's 18-month crackdown against the rebellious Serbian province.