THE HAGUE (AFP) - The trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, which will soon enter into its fifth year, started up again at the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands after a six-week break and amidst the worsening health of the accused former dictator.

Milosevic, who is defending himself, suffers from high blood pressure and related cardio-vascular problems.

His poor health has caused his trial, which began in February 2002, to be suspended on numerous occasions.

Last month Milosevic requested to be allowed to travel to a Russian cardiological centre for treatment.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has not decided whether to allow the transfer, even though Russia has guaranteed that Milosevic would be returned to The Hague-based court once he had received medical care.

ICTY head prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has repeatedly voiced her opposition to the transfer request.

Theoretically, court appointed lawyers are to be able to replace the defendant in his absence in order to continue the proceedings, but this option has never been used.

However, the court rejected the prosecutor's demand to continue the trial with replacement lawyers in case of Milosevic's absence, in documents published Monday, which cited problems with the form of the request.

The former Serbian dictator is answering to more than 60 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in three Yugoslav conflicts that killed more than 200,000 people and ripped the country apart in the 1990s.

The conflicts involved former Yugoslav republics of Croatia (1991-1995) and Bosnia (1992-1995) and the province of Kosovo (1998-1999).

Milosevic faces separate genocide charges for the bloody Bosnian conflict.

Known for his long tirades against the countless "enemies" of the Serbian people, Milosevic has already used up 75 percent of the 360 hours allocated for his defense.