World News

Serbian minister quits war crimes team

BELGRADE (Reuters) - The Serbian minister responsible for helping the U.N. war crimes tribunal track down suspects resigned on Tuesday because efforts to bring fugitive Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic before the court had failed.

“Earlier this year I said that Mladic will be in The Hague by December 31, and that didn’t happen so I am resigning,” Rasim Ljajic told Reuters.

Ljajic, who is Serbia’s labour minister, said he had given Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic his resignation as coordinator in a team involved in the hunt for war crimes suspects. He said he would remain as head of the National Council for Cooperation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal, a separate body.

The arrest of Mladic is essential for Serbia’s progress towards membership of the European Union, for which it applied last week.

Mladic has been charged with genocide over the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo during the three-year war in Bosnia.

Ratification of the EU’s pre-membership Stabilisation and Association Agreement remains on hold because the Netherlands wants to see Mladic extradited to the Hague tribunal.

Dutch soldiers served as part of a U.N. peacekeeping contingent in and around Srebrenica during the massacre but were unable to intervene because they lacked weapons and a mandate.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Andrew Dobbie