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Arnaud de Borchgrave's exclusive interview with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
"I tried a wide variety of potential contacts to get to Milosevic for weeks and drew nothing but blanks. Finally, it occurred to me that Israel must have gotten close to Tito during the Cold War as neither the Soviet Union nor the U.S. was in the business of selling arms to Yugoslavia. So I contacted one of my old Mossad sources. Within three days I was instructed to report to the Concierge's desk at the Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest at 10 a.m. four days later. I was there and at the appointed hour and an older man in a dirty raincoat asked if I was Mr. de Borchgrave. I nodded and he introduced himself. Within minutes, my garment bag and I were off to Belgrade in a Mercedes limousine with my escort who turned out to a Serb-Croat born Israeli who was a frequent traveler to Belgrade from Israel. Judging by how things progressed after that, I concluded that Mossad had penetrated Milosevic's inner circle.
"At the border we abandoned the limo, moved swiftly through Yugoslav customs and immigration and were greeted by three civilian officials. Quick introductions were followed by a hair-raising ride at 160 kph in another large Mercedes on a virtually empty highway. My Israeli traveling companion explained this was necessary to avoid being hit by U.S. bombs. I was on my GSM phone talking to my wife in Washington to reassure her when a U.S. bomb or missile hit a cluster of warehouses about 500 yards from the road.
"It was dusk as we crossed the last bridge into Belgrade that was lined with human shields that were being used as a deterrent against U.S. bombing raids. I was asked whether I would rather stay at the Hyatt or the Intercon. I knew that most journalists were at the Hyatt so I picked the Intercon. I realized that if any of 300 colleagues spotted me they would guess I was there for a big interview with Milosevic and since most of them had been pushing for the same scoop, someone might try to derail my plans.
"Milosevic's chief of cabinet picked me up for dinner -- a neighborhood bistro where there was no risk of encountering an American colleague who might recognize me. By now the Israeli and I were fast friends and he clearly knew anyone who was anyone in the bureaucracy and secret police guarding the hotel.
"Next afternoon, I was driven to a nondescript villa in the suburbs where I was ushered into a sparsely furnished living room. Five minutes later, Milosevic walked in. It was scheduled for one hour, but he stayed on for another hour. I could see this was going to be a major world scoop. No sooner was I back in my hotel room then I began transcribing two hours of conversation. We left for Budapest at first light, raced back to the border at breakneck speed, switched cars at the border and seven hours after leaving Belgrade, we were back at the Intercon in Budapest. By then, I had the story written and it was just a question of typing the story and the Q&A into e-mail. The scoop made front pages the world over." (BEL99042999)