Fri, Dec 03, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Auto accident mistaken for assassination


A local employee of the US embassy in Belgrade crashed into a motorcade in which pro-Western Serbian President Boris Tadic was travelling, the Serbian Interior Minister said Wednesday, describing the incident as a "traffic accident" and not an assassination attempt.

"What had been feared to be an assassination attempt has turned out to be a traffic offence," Interior Minister Dragan Jocic told a press conference in Belgrade.

Jocic said that his office "was informed by the security department of the US embassy [in Belgrade]" about the identity of the driver.

"This was a traffic accident," Jocic said, adding that the driver, Miroslav Cimpl, was to give his official statement to police when his lawyer was present.

Tadic was not injured in the incident, which happened at around 9pm Tuesday in central Belgrade's Kneza Milosa avenue. A black Audi car followed the president's heavily protected motorcade before apparently trying to ram his vehicle.

Jocic explained that Cimpl, who was alone apart from his dog, "had no knowledge that it was a presidential convoy."

"Irritated, he began to maneuver his vehicle, but when he saw the flashing lights of the motorcade, he got scared and that was how the incident happened," Jocic said.

US embassy officials were not available for comment.

Police said earlier that a vehicle had approached the rear of Tadic's convoy, ignoring warnings to keep its distance. One of Tadic's security vehicles responded quickly to the threat by side-swiping the Audi, forcing it to flee the scene.

Tadic himself vowed to press ahead with his reform program despite possible threats.

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