U.N. prosecutor optimistic on Mladic arrest

BELGRADE Wed Sep 10, 2008 12:44pm EDT

A girl holds a picture of Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic during a rally in Belgrade May 26, 2007. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

A girl holds a picture of Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic during a rally in Belgrade May 26, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Marko Djurica

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BELGRADE (Reuters) - The United Nations chief war crimes prosecutor said on Wednesday he was optimistic that Serbia would succeed in its efforts to arrest remaining war crimes fugitives.

"Allow me to express careful optimism that the search for remaining fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic will be successful," prosecutor Serge Brammertz told reporters after meeting Serbian officials.

It is Brammertz's first trip to Belgrade since the July arrest of genocide suspect Radovan Karadzic, a breakthrough in Serbia's cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes court after years of patchy progress.

The court wants to bring to justice Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, who is indicted of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo in which around 14,000 people were killed.

The other fugitive is Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic, indicted for crimes against humanity during the 1991-95 Croatian war.

Serbian officials have said they have intensified efforts to capture the two men in order to help Serbia's move toward EU membership, a government priority.

"The arrest of the two remaining fugitives is the key objective of our cooperation," Brammertz said.

Serbia signed an association agreement with the EU in April but the 27-nation bloc said it would wait for Brammertz's report on whether Serbia fully cooperates with the tribunal before allowing it to gain trade benefits.

The formal move by the EU could come as early as September 15 at the foreign ministers' meeting.

Diplomats say most EU member states want Serbia to move ahead on the EU path for the sake of stability in the Balkans. But the Netherlands, where the tribunal is based, insists that the remaining fugitives should be arrested before the accord benefits come into force.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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