Serbia proceeds with Mladic's search

Serbian officials promised U.N. war crimes prosecutor to catch former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic and other fugitives. It is a key precondition for the country's EU integration.

After her two-day fact-finding visit to Belgrade, chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor for former Yugoslavia Carla Del Ponte is to brief European Union officials. Based on her findings, they will decide if Serbia can sign a pre-membership aid and trade pact with the bloc.

A statement issued after Del Ponte's meeting with the Serbian government official dealing with the Hague court, Rasim Ljajic, pledged Belgrade's cooperation with the tribunal, and quoted Del Ponte as saying she wanted Serbia to catch the fugitives as soon as possible.

Del Ponte was unavailable for comment, but earlier this month she told European Union foreign ministers that Serbia was still unwilling to arrest Mladic, who was the Bosnian Serb army commander during the 1992-95 war, former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and two other war crimes fugitives.

Mladic and Karadzic were charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim boys and men from Srebrenica and the siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo - the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

Before Del Ponte's visit, Serbian officials said they have intensified their search for the four suspects wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, based in The Hague, Netherlands.

The issue of Serbia's cooperation with the tribunal is of critical importance to the Balkan state's efforts to join the European Union. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday that "we shall take (Del Ponte's) findings strongly into account when making our assessment" on a pre-membership agreement with Belgrade.

On Thursday Del Ponte also met Serbian officials in charge of hunting down the fugitives, including the chief of Serbia's intelligence service.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova