Three men--two of them said to be former policeman sacked or suspended for links to the underworld--have been arrested in connection with last weekend's killing of Serbia's most notorious paramilitary leader, police said today.

Police Col. Milenko Ercic identified the suspects as former police officers Dobrosav Gavric, 23, allegedly the triggerman; Dejan Pitulic, 33; and Vujadin Krstic, 36. Pitulic was fired from the police force last year, and Gavric was officially on sick leave because of ties to criminals, Ercic said.

He said the arrests refute speculation that the government of President Slobodan Milosevic was behind the Jan. 15 slaying of Arkan, whose real name was Zeljko Raznatovic, because he knew too much about the regime's links to Balkan war crimes. Arkan was gunned down in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel. Some Belgrade newspapers said he apparently recognized his killer and greeted him with a customary kiss on the check before the gunman opened fire.

"It is my pleasure to announce that, much to the regret of some who wished otherwise, Belgrade police efficiently and quickly discovered the persons involved," Ercic said. "Regardless of all assumptions, manipulations that the state or the police may be behind this, that it was some kind of state terrorism, this case is about ex-policemen and criminals."

Ercic refused to talk about the possible motive for the killing of Arkan, who was under indictment by the international war crimes tribunal for atrocities committed during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

Arkan also was a kingpin of the Belgrade underworld, controlling casinos, oil smuggling and other activities in addition to his ownership of a soccer club and other legitimate businesses.