Times 2

Mladic wary then defiant in dramatic Hague debut

THE HAGUE, June 4 (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic faced the U.N. war crimes tribunal on Friday as a defiant general who never lost a battle, denying the charges against him as “obnoxious” and “monstrous”.

Formally charged by a U.N. tribunal which has waited 16 years to see him in the dock, he began with a wary appeal from a “very sick man” but ended with a defiant flourish of his old bravado, predicting he would be acquitted.

“The whole world knows who I am. I am General Ratko Mladic,” he said at the end of his first appearance, a tense 100 minutes. “I defended my people, my country ... now I am defending myself,” he told the court and rapt public gallery. “I just have to say that I want to live to see myself a free man.”

Sitting in the same chair as political chiefs Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, co-accused in a conspiracy to carve a Great Serbia from the wreckage of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia, Mladic began by greeting the court with a salute.

He said he was in poor health and needed more time to study the indictments against him. But by the end of the session, the general in this lifetime soldier had reasserted itself. He told Judge Alphons Orie indignantly he did not want to hear “a single letter or word of that indictment” read out. As expected, Mladic declined to enter a plea, and Orie set his next hearing for July 4.

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