European Union urges Serbia to find political will to arrest war crimes fugitive Mladic before deadline

A senior European Union official urged the Serbian government Thursday to find the "political will" to arrest war crimes fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic before an EU deadline runs out April 5.

"We have a reasonable assumption that Serbia could arrest Ratko Mladic if it had the political will and if this political will were translated into concrete actions, through the whole administration, including security services and military services," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

He said he would hold talks with chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on Friday to assess whether Belgrade was fully complying with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The EU has warned it will freeze negotiations on a key aid-and-trade association agreement with Serbia-Montenegro, meant to prepare the Balkan nation for possible future EU membership, if it does not arrest Mladic and ship him to the court in the Netherlands.

"There has been a period of deterioration of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia by Serbia," Rehn said after talks with Bosnia-Herzegovina Prime Minister Adnan Terzic.

"Now in the recent weeks the situation may have changed to some extent, but that is precisely what I want to hear from Ms. Del Ponte and I am also of course receiving information form the EU member states."

He said if Belgrade fails to make good on compliance, he would act to cancel the next round of talks planned for April 5.

Rehn also warned Bosnia-Herzegovina that similar talks on a so-called stability and association agreement would be frozen if authorities there fail to fully comply with the U.N. tribunal's demand to hand over fugitives.

Terzic said his government aimed to cooperate with Del Ponte.

The EU has demanded both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro do all they can to hand over Mladic and the other top war crimes suspect, Radovan Karadzic.

Mladic and Karadzic, the former political leader of Bosnia's ethnic Serbs, have been on the run since the Bosnian war ended in 1995 frustrating those who want them captured and tried. Both were indicted for genocide and other war crimes they allegedly committed during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Del Ponte comes to Brussels after visiting Belgrade to hear what officials were doing to hunt down the two fugitives, who are believed to be hiding in either Serbia or in Bosnia , reports the AP.

D.M.