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Serbia Held Responsible For Massacre Of Bosnians

President Slobodan Milosevic, who will be in Ohio next week for US-backed peace talks, may be behind a major war crime.

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OFFICERS from Serbia participated in the attack on the UN-declared ''safe area'' of Srebrenica, according to credible eyewitness accounts obtained by the Monitor. And senior Western diplomats and UN officials say Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is responsible for the attack and the subsequent executions of thousands of Muslim civilians.

Muslim witnesses say that an officer from Serbia was directing the roundup of Muslim prisoners in the village of Konjevic Polje, and that a Serb officer captured by Muslim forces was following orders issued from the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

''[The Serb officer] said they were under orders from Belgrade not to allow any men to escape from Srebrenica,'' says Bosnian soldier Dzemal Malovic.

''All Muslim men were to be captured or killed,'' said Mr. Malovic, one of three Bosnian soldiers who say they spoke to and looked at identity papers of the captured Serbian captain.

In a separate interview, a Muslim officer confirmed that the Serbian officer had been captured. The Serbian officer's whereabouts are unknown, and he may have been killed later by Muslim forces.

Western diplomats have long suspected that the Bosnian Serb attack on Srebrenica in mid-July was approved by Belgrade, but the government of President Slobodan Milosevic has vehemently denied it.

Mr. Milosevic's involvement would be an embarrassment for the Clinton administration, eager to portray Milosevic - who will be attending peace talks in Ohio next week - as a peacemaker in the Balkans, not a war criminal.

''Whether by commission or omission, [Milosevic] is responsible, no question,'' says a senior UN military official based in Zagreb, Croatia. ''He had plenty of sources on the ground there. He had to know what was happening, and either approved of it or did nothing to stop it.''

A senior Western diplomat in Zagreb also says Milosevic is responsible for what is quickly emerging as one of the darkest hours of Bosnia's 3-1/2 year conflict.

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