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Milosevic's Army Chief Surrenders to War Crimes Tribunal

A former Yugoslav army commander surrendered to the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague on Thursday. But 17 more suspects indicted by the UN have refused to turn themselves in.

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Better days for General Ojdanic, centre, and Slobodan Milosevic, right

Former Yugoslav army chief of staff General Dragoljub Ojdanic, who is accused of war crimes in Kosovo, left Belgrade for the United Nations war crimes tribunal on Thursday.

The former army commander is on a list of 23 people ordered to surrender last week by the Yugoslav Government.

Six of the 23 names on the government's list of suspects wanted by the UN court for war crimes have said they would voluntarily surrender.

But the other 17 Serbs indicted by the United Nations, have refused to turn themselves in.

Among them are Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic - two of the most wanted men on the list.

Hopes for aid

By urging suspects to go to trial, Yugoslavia hopes that Washington may remove a US block on economic aid desperately needed by the Balkan country.

But the US State Department has said that those charged must appear before the tribunal before any funds are released.

"Clean conscience"

General Ojdanic, who served for 41 years, commanded the Yugoslav armed forces in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 during the campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

He said the army conducted itself there in accordance with the law, the constitution and all international conventions of war.

"As a chief of staff, I have nothing to feel ashamed of and my conscience is clean", he said before his departure from Belgrade.

He said it was out of respect for the law that he had decided to surrender to The Hague to face charges.

By turning himself in, he wanted "to make my modest contribution to ending the isolation of my country and ending those sanctions that still exist".

Still no sign

The Yugoslav authorities say 15 suspects could be arrested if found in the country, after a Monday deadline to surrender was missed.

But there is still no sign of the two most wanted men, Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic.

A NATO operation in March in the southern town of Foca in the Serb part of Bosnia, Republika Srpska, proved fruitless.

However, it was a sign that NATO is prepared to risk lives in order to bring the war crimes suspects to justice.

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