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UN Prosecutor Urges Delay in Signing of EU-Serbian Pact Until Arrest of Mladic


The chief United Nations war crimes prosecutor is urging the European Union to hold off on completing negotiations with Serbia on a pre-membership treaty until a key war crimes suspect is arrested.

Prosecutor Carla del Ponte told EU lawmakers Tuesday that Belgrade's preparations for EU membership should only proceed if fugitive General Ratko Mladic is handed over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

The Hague tribunal indicted Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for their roles in attacks on civilians during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mladic is thought to be hiding with the help of Serb nationalist supporters.

EU-Serbian talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement - the first step toward EU membership - resumed earlier this month after a year-long break. The union lifted the freeze after the arrest of another war crimes suspect, Bosnian General Zdravko Tolimir.

The prosecutor also criticized international administrators in Serbia's Kosovo province. She said they impede her work by failing to provide adequate protection to witnesses thus undermining a number of war crimes cases.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since 1999, when NATO air strikes halted Belgrade's crackdown on ethnic Albanians in the area.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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