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Bosnia war victims angry about EU pact with Serbia

SARAJEVO, April 30 (Reuters) - Relatives of victims of Bosnia's 1995 Srebrenica massacre accused the European Union on Wednesday of failing to live up to its own principles by signing a pre-membership pact with Serbia.

The EU signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia on Tuesday despite Belgrade's failure to arrest war crimes fugitives such as Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, indicted for genocide for the massacre at Srebrenica of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.

The pact, which will not be ratified until Belgrade delivers all suspects to the U.N. war crimes tribunal, was meant to bolster pro-Western parties ahead of a knife-edge May 11 election in Serbia that looks likely to be won by nationalists. "If Europe can accept a Serbia which is hiding war criminals and continues with its wartime policies, such a Europe means nothing to us," said Kada Hotic, who lost her son, husband and two brothers at Srebrenica. "We can hope for nothing regarding respect for human rights."

The EU's rushed compromise was bitterly condemned in Bosnia, with media reporting on "Yet another injustice towards Bosnia" and politicians condemning the bloc's "double standards". Bosnia, and especially its Muslims, suffered terribly in the wars that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia. Its conflict ended with 100,000 people dead and the country split into two halves, the Serb Republic and Muslim-Croat federation.

The country is pursuing its own SAA, which the government had hoped to sign on Tuesday as well, but its signing was postponed due to "technical reasons". Bosnia's two autonomous regions agreed earlier this month to pass reforms demanded by the EU, after arguing bitterly about them for almost five years.

"This shows Serbia enjoys privileges like no other state," said Muslim leader Haris Silajdzic, whose impassioned wartime appeals helped persuade the West to intervene and stop the killing of Muslims by Bosnian Serbs backed by Belgrade.

"Some countries have been lagging behind in the European integration process on far less important grounds than the arrest of those responsible for the only genocide in Europe after World War Two."

Bosnian Croat leader Zeljko Komsic said Brussels was conducting a "very, very bad policy" of keeping Bosnia hostage to Serbia's path.

"This once more shows the injustice towards Bosnia," Komsic said. "European bureaucracy is not led by standards but by pure politics and pure interest." (Editing by Ellie Tzortzi and Catherine Evans)

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