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Milosevic faces new war crimes charges

A sweeping new indictment has been issued against Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader, this time charging him with war crimes in Bosnia, an official of the U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague said on Monday.

This is the third _ and probably the most grave _ indictment against Milosevic. While the details have not yet been published, it is believed to charge him with genocide.

Added to earlier indictments involving war crimes in Kosovo and Croatia, the new accusations appear to complete the prosecution's picture, alleging that Milosevic was the chief architect of the Balkan wars that tore up Yugoslavia.

Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor, said she will ask tribunal judges to join the three separate indictments so that Milosevic will be judged in a single, all-encompassing trial.

Details of the Bosnia indictment were not published on Monday because the document must still be validated by a tribunal judge, said Florence Hartmann, Del Ponte's spokeswoman.

The validation process may take some time, lawyers at the court said, because the case against Milosevic in Bosnia is far more complex than those involving Croatia and Kosovo. The new Bosnia indictment, the lawyers said, comes with more than a dozen outsize binders of documents and other supporting evidence.

However, it does not come as a surprise. Del Ponte has been announcing that this indictment was coming since last August and has postponed its conclusion several times. Her operating style has been different from that of her predecessors, who usually revealed an indictment only after it was ready and confirmed by a tribunal judge.

But the prosecution of Milosevic, legal experts said, is not comparable in scope and complexity to other cases and poses a challenge for everyone involved.

A team of up to 50 people has worked for months to prepare the evidence that will be used to try to link Milosevic to the crimes with which he will be charged.

Milosevic was never formally the commander of the Bosnian Serb troops that have been accused of deporting, torturing and executing thousands of civilians during the Bosnian war, from 1992 to 1995. Prosecutors will have to demonstrate in court that Milosevic used those troops as surrogates to carry out his plans and that he knew of their atrocities.

In recent days, three new war crimes suspects have joined Milosevic at the tribunal prison, bringing the total to 49.