Former Serb Leader Karadzic Refuses to Enter Pleas on Charges of Ethnic Cleansing

Radovan Karadzic refused Tuesday to enter pleas to a new streamlined indictment containing two genocide charges and nine other counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The former Bosnian Serb leader told a hearing at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal that the U.N. court "does not have the right to try me."

Karadzic, 62, claims he was promised immunity from prosecution by U.S. peace envoy Richard Holbrooke in return for stepping down from power and disappearing from the public eye. Holbrooke has denied cutting such a deal.

"I am defending a principle here; that wars cannot be concluded and peace agreements cannot be signed by deceit," Karadzic said as he refused to enter pleas.

Judge Iain Bonomy cut Karadzic short and told him: "You will have the opportunity to deal with that issue in due course."

The Scottish judge then formally entered not guilty pleas on Kardzic's behalf in line with the tribunal's regulations.

The new indictment covers the same allegations as the original charges filed against Karadzic in 1995 but reduces the number of crime sites in an attempt to speed up his trial. No date has been set for the trial to start.

Prosecutors say he orchestrated a deadly campaign of ethnic cleansing by Serb forces throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war. Acts covered in his indictment range from the violent takeover of villages to the shelling and sniping campaign targeting Sarajevo and the July 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men at the U.N. safe haven of Srebrenica.

Karadzic was arrested in July on a Belgrade bus after 13 years on the run. When he was caught, he was posing as a white-bearded alternative healer called Dr. Dragan Dabic.