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Serb Leader Pledges Cooperation with War Crimes Tribunal - 2004-07-21


Serbia's new president, Boris Tadic, is in Washington where he has been meeting top officials in the Bush administration and seeking political and economic assistance to promote stability in southeast Europe.

Mr. Tadic says Serbia is determined to overcome the disasters of the Milosevic era and cooperate with neighboring Balkan countries to achieve membership in the European Union. Mr. Tadic spoke of an emerging partnership with the United States and NATO, whose peacekeeping operations in Kosovo he strongly endorsed.

Mr. Tadic succeeded slain Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic as head of Serbia's reformist Democratic Party. Last month he defeated a radical nationalist to become Serbia's president.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Mr. Tadic said that fugitive Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic must be apprehended and sent to The Hague. He referred to General Mladic in connection with the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica nine years ago.

"We have to find the individuals who are guilty of this war crime," he said. "In this sense we have to cooperate with the Hague tribunal. And from my point of view Ratko Mladic has to face his position with this court."

Several observers believe General Mladic has found sanctuary in Serbia where many ordinary people regard him as a Serb patriot. Mr. Tadic said if General Mladic is in Serbia, he will be arrested.

Mr. Tadic, who emphasizes that he is Serbia's first non-communist president since World War II, says he is committed to inter-ethnic cooperation. But he has no hesitation in labeling as ethnic cleansing the anti-Serb riots in Kosovo last March. He favors dialogue between Serbs and ethnic Albanians but strongly opposes independence for the southern Serbian province.

"From my point of view as president of Serbia independence for Kosovo is unacceptable," he added. "If Albanian leaders in Pristina expect that Belgrade will be for independence in Kosovo, this is unrealistic."

Mr. Tadic identified regional cooperation and economic, political and judicial reform as top priorities. He said all of southeastern Europe needs foreign direct investment to create jobs and stability.