The start of the former Yugoslav president's defence case on Monday was postponed with prosecutors calling for the imposition of a defence counsel on Milosevic after judges raised concerns about Milosevic's high blood pressure and his need to rest.

   

Milosevic's bouts of high blood pressure, flu and exhaustion have frequently delayed his trial that began in February 2002. The 62-year-old faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Balkans in the 1990s.

   

"The time has come for a radical review of the trial process and the continuation of the trial in the light of the health problems of the accused," presiding judge Patrick Robinson said at what the tribunal described as an administrative hearing.

   

The trial's three judges are to rule by Tuesday on how to proceed with the case.

 

Charges

   

Milosevic, who graduated from the Belgrade Law Faculty and is conducting his own defence, has described his trial as a battle for truth against what he called politically motivated charges that were "false" and "monstrous".

   

"The time has come
for a radical review
of the trial process..."

Patrick Robinson,
presiding judge

The former Serb leader had been due to launch his defence by making a four-hour opening statement in a case widely regarded as Europe's biggest war crimes trial since Hitler's henchmen were tried at Nuremberg after the second world war.

   

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice rejected a suggestion that Milosevic was no longer fit to stand trial but called for the court to appoint defence lawyers to represent him to reduce stress.

   

"This is a case that must be tried. The accused wishes it to be tried," he said. "The time has now come where it is essential if this case is to be properly concluded and in a reasonable period of time that counsel is imposed."

   

Milosevic has repeatedly rejected calls to appoint a defence lawyer since the trial opened.

   

Charged with dozens of counts of war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, Milosevic wants to summon former US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the 150 working days he has for his case.