War Crimes Prosecutor Pushes for Arrests

Chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte on Monday pushed anew for the arrest of top war crimes fugitives, including Ratko Mladic, and received assurances from Serbia's prime minister that the job will be done soon.

The retired Bosnian Serb general is wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on genocide charges for allegedly orchestrating the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in 1995, and for other war crimes related to Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

Serbia has been under intense international pressure to arrest Mladic and at least five other war crimes fugitives, or face possible international isolation. Belgrade's negotiations with the European Union on eventual membership in the bloc could be frozen if it does not take action, Del Ponte warned Serbian officials.

"Of course, priority is the arrest of fugitives," Del Ponte said after meeting Serbia-Montenegro's defense minister.

"I still have six remaining fugitives at large," Del Ponte said. "Since April 2004, no one has been transferred to The Hague."

Del Pointe said she has received assurances from the authorities "that cooperation will be implemented ... but I need concrete results."

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said after his talks with Del Ponte that "it is in Serbia's interest that the cooperation with the tribunal is completed."

"The job undertaken must be completed," Kostunica said in a written statement. "It is Serbia's state interest."

Serbian officials insist they have been unable to locate Mladic, despite claims by Del Ponte that he is hiding in the country under the protection of hard-liners in the military.

On Wednesday, Serbia-Montenegro's top defense body said that retired army officers helped hide Mladic, but reiterated that his whereabouts were unknown.

Authorities tried to persuade Del Ponte that they are doing everything to capture the fugitive general, said Rasim Ljajic, the head of Serbia-Montenegro's agency for cooperation with the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

"The effort to arrest Mladic has never been more serious," Ljajic said. "All state authorities are determined to solve the Mladic case."