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US Official Says Mladic's Days as War Crimes Fugitive Numbered


A senior U.S. official said Thursday General Ratko Mladic's days as fugitive from war crimes justice may be numbered. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns also announced Washington is lifting a freeze on an aid package for Serbia.

Mr. Burns told reporters in Belgrade that one of the most wanted men by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal may not be on the run much longer. He said Thursday he was assured by Serbian officials that they are doing their best to capture General Mladic and deliver him to The Hague court. "My strong impression from our discussions here in Belgrade is that the government is working very seriously to find General Mladic. And that there will be a sincere attempt to capture him. Or to have him voluntarily surrender and send him to [the UN Tribunal at] The Hague. All the world is now focused on this question. And we are confident that his days in relative freedom are numbered," he said.

General Maldic has been indicted by the war crimes tribunal for his alleged involvement in killing nearly eight-thousand Muslim men and boys around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.

Local commentators say Belgrade is in a difficult position to arrest General Mladic who is seen by many people in Serbia as a hero.

But Vladeta Jankovic, the foreign affairs adviser to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, indicates General Mladic will be in UN custody soon. "I am certainly not in a position to give any dates. But we are working on it, and we have taken it seriously. And we have committed ourselves to fulfill our obligations to the international tribunal in The Hague fully with no limits, which means that everybody is included," he said.

Mr. Jankovic says Belgrade is also putting pressure on the Serb part of neighboring Bosnia Herzegovina to extradite former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who is seen as the architect of the Srebrenica massacre. "Absolutely. And you see we have proved that we were able within two months time to persuade 14 inductees to present themselves to The Hague. Nobody expected that we would do it. And nobody believed us that we would," he said.

The recent arrests helped persuade Washington to release 10 million dollars in aid to Serbia.

Mr. Jankovic says Thursday's announcement by Mr. Burns of the lifting of the freeze on the aid package marks both a symbolic gesture and the beginning of the normalization in diplomatic relations with the United States.