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US Affirms Support for War Crimes Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte - 2003-10-10

Secretary of State Colin Powell Friday reaffirmed U.S. support for United Nations war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and her revised mandate for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. The U.N. Security Council in August relieved Ms. del Ponte of parallel responsibilities for Central African war crimes and put deadlines on the Yugoslav tribunal.

The United States was a major force behind the Security Council's decision to split the Yugoslav and Rwandan war crimes prosecutions, arguing that it would increase the efficiency of both courts.

But it also backed the retention of Ms. del Ponte as the Balkans prosecutor, and Mr. Powell made a public show of support for her after their half-hour meeting here.

With Ms. del Ponte at his side, Mr. Powell reaffirmed U.S. support for the "important" work Ms. del Ponte is doing in the former Yugoslavia, and said they discussed how she plans to accelerate that work in light of the time-lines imposed under Security Council resolution 1503 approved in late August.

Mr. Powell said the United States, for its part, intends to maintain pressure for the apprehension of the two most prominent indicted Balkans war crimes suspects still at large former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic.

"We are particularly anxious to get the two 'big fish' Mladic and Karadzic who have been able to escape apprehension so far. And I reassured her that we will keep making it an issue with our commanders in NATO and especially the commanders in the region. And we make it a matter of discussion whenever we meet with Serbian political leaders," Mr. Powell said.

The two fugitives are wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for the killings of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and others at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces in the early 1990s.

The new U.N. resolution calls for all Balkans-related investigations to be completed by the end of next year, for trials to be finished by the end of 2008, and for the Yugoslav tribunal to be closed down entirely at the end of 2010.