The Hague: Serbs attempted to prevent the Bosnian war that killed 100,000 people, wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic told his genocide trial before a UN court on Tuesday.
"The Serbs attempted before the war several chances and options for peace," the Bosnian Serb leader told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia trying him on 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Karadzic ended a boycott of his trial and took the stand on Monday for a two-day opening statement, outlining his defence to charges that he commanded an "ethnic cleansing" campaign of Croats and Muslims during the 1992-95 war.
Karadzic told judges that Bosnia's Serbs were defending themselves against Muslim and Croat aggression, describing numerous provocative incidents like an attack on a Serb wedding and a machine-gun assault on his own family apartment shortly before the war broke out.
The 64-year-old stands charged for his role in the war that claimed 100,000 lives and displaced 2.2 million people.
He is accused of colluding with the late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic to plot the creation of a "Greater Serbia" that was to include 60 percent of Bosnian territory. Serbs made up about one-third of Bosnia's population.
Among the charges against Karadzic are the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys, and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that ended in November 1995 with some 10,000 people killed.
But he told the tribunal Tuesday that Sarajevo was "not a city under siege, it was a city divided."
On the night of April 5, 1992, considered the eve of the outbreak of war, Karadzic said: "terror broke loose in Sarajevo. It was the worst night ever", with snipers in all the high-rise buildings.
"It was terrible to be a Serb that night in Sarajevo."
The Serbs, he said, withdrew to their own districts where they tried to defend their families. "That is how the line dividing the town was established. It wasn't a line of siege, it was a line separating and dividing two parts of the town."
Arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008 after 13 years on the run, Karadzic has pleaded not guilty. He risks life imprisonment. His opening statement is to be followed Wednesday with the testimony of the first prosecution witness.
The former President of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb state, Republika Srpska, has sought another delay of his trial until June 17, claiming he needs more time to prepare his case. He has threatened to resume his boycott if turned down.
First Published: Tuesday, March 02, 2010, 17:11