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US State Department Denies Claims of Karadzic Immunity

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has called his trial an international media-inspired witch hunt that, he said, will prevent him from getting a fair trial.

In a document submitted to the United Nations tribunal in The Hague, Karadzic repeated a charge he made before the court Thursday that the United States in 1996 had offered him immunity from war crimes charges.

Karadzic claimed that he had struck a deal with U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to disappear from public life in exchange for a U.S. promise not to pursue the charges against him.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormick, late Thursday, said Holbrooke never made an agreement to give Karadzic protection from arrest or prosecution.

Holbrooke, who brokered the peace deal that ended the Bosnian conflict Friday also, again, called Karadzic's charge untrue.

Karadzic refused to enter a plea Thursday as he appeared before the tribunal.

Judge Alphons Orie read the charges to Kardzic -- 11 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The charges include the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Karadzic waived his right to a court-appointed attorney. He said he will defend himself and he demanded 30 days to study the charges before entering a plea.

The charges against Karadzic stem from his alleged attempts at ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Croats from Bosnia-Herzegovina during the conflict of the 1990s.

Serbian police arrested Karadzic in Belgrade last week after 12 years as one of the world's most-wanted fugitives. He spent much of the time living in Belgrade under another name, heavily disguised, and practicing alternative medicine.

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