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War Crimes Court Prosecutor Urges EU to Keep Pressure on Serbia


Swiss lawyer Carla del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor of the U.N. war crimes tribunal, said Wednesday she is concerned the European Union might resume talks with Serbia before the leading fugitives from the Balkan wars have been arrested. Del Ponte is leaving her post in September after eight years at the post. Teri Schultz reports from Brussels.

Del Ponte was harshly critical of Serbian leaders for their failure to cooperate with the U.N. court in the arrest the leading Balkan wars fugitives, Radko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. "They have done nothing! And in November, December, they even did the contrary!," she said.

Mladic and Karadzic have been indicted for genocide and other crime they allegedly committed during the Bosnia war. Both have been on the run since the war ended in 1995.

Del Ponte was also unsparing in criticizing the European Union, which last May had suspended negotiations over closer ties Serbia after Belgrade missed a deadline for extraditing Mladic to The Hague. News wires quote some EU sources as saying the EU might resume talks before Mladic is apprehended.

Del Ponte said she disagreed and said this could jeopardize the hunt for Mladic. She said the EU should continue to put pressure on Belgrade to cooperate with the war crimes court. "I was asking the European Union to continue -- and I hope they will continue to support our needs."

She said she was assured by the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana that he will speak openly with the Serb officials whom he meets next week. But, she said, there were no promises the EU will continue to isolate Serbia.

Del Ponte confirmed she is retiring from her post in September, and expressed fear that, without EU's support, Mladic and Karadzic may end up going free. "It will be a failure of international justice," she said.

But she added, until she leaves she is committed to seeing the accused war criminals locked up.

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