Serb Gov't Wants to Keep US Fugitive Case Private

Talks involving accused basketball player continuing

Serbia's government said Monday its negotiations with the U.S. side about the fate of a Serb student accused of beating up an American classmate are confidential.

The government said in a statement that the talks in the case of Miladin Kovacevic are continuing. It said details will be published once a solution is found.

The 22-year-old ex-basketball player at Binghamton University is charged with assault in the United States for beating up Bryan Steinhauer last May in upstate New York.

Kovacevic jumped bail and fled to Serbia last June after Serb diplomats in America issued him emergency documents. Belgrade has refused to send him back despite U.S. pressure, saying extradition was banned by its laws.

Kovacevic's case came into renewed public focus in Serbia last week after a newspaper reported that the government has offered to pay $900,000 in compensation to Steinhauer.

The report triggered outrage in the impoverished Balkan republic.

The "Borba" daily said in its report that the compensation would pave the way for Kovacevic to be tried in Serbia. The United States had refused to hand over the case in the past.

Senior Justice Ministry official Slobodan Homen told the "Blic" daily on Monday that he was convinced Kovacevic's trial in Serbia will begin in the next few months. Homen added that the Serbia trial was the only way out of the dispute.

The Kovacevic case has strained relations between Washington and Belgrade.

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