- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2000

LONDON The French military is blocking a British commando operation to arrest Radovan Karadzic, the former leader of Bosnia's Serbs, according to British defense sources.
Mr. Karadzic, who has been indicted for war crimes committed during Bosnia's civil war, lives near Pale, the capital of Republika Srpska, an area controlled by the French contingent of the international Stabilization Force (Sfor).
His villa is protected by a squad of police bodyguards and around 500 specially trained troops to foil any attempt by NATO forces to arrest him.
Britain's Special Air Service (SAS) is, nevertheless, confident that it can go in and "snatch" him.
"We have the capability," one British defense source said. "It is simply a question of whether or not there is the political will.
"But if you really think the French will accept a British special forces operation on their territory, where the world will say the Brits can do it, the French can't, then dream on."
A series of successful SAS swoops on suspects in Bosnia in the past three years has helped turn the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague into an effective force after a slow start following its establishment in 1993.
Since the end of the war in Bosnia, six indicted war criminals have been arrested by police and 20 detained by the NATO-led Sfor. Another 12 have surrendered voluntarily.
The arrest in June of Dusko Sikirica, former commandant of the notorious Keraterm prison camp, was the most recent such operation by the SAS, which has developed an unrivaled expertise in snatching war criminals.
British forces have been involved in the apprehension of 13 of the 20 suspects now in custody. They also shot dead a target who resisted arrest in the first snatch operation they mounted three years ago.
Although the French last month arrested Momcilo Krajisnik, Mr. Karadzic's successor as leader of the Bosnian Serbs, the bulk of those indicted or named in secret arrest warrants are still at large in their sector.
The most prominent of these is Mr. Karadzic. He was indicted, along with his military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is now safe in Belgrade, for crimes against humanity including genocide, and for being ultimately responsible for the rape, torture and plunder carried out by their men.
The 55-year-old former psychiatrist rose to prominence when Slobodan Milosevic, now Yugoslav president, began seeking out and promoting nationalist allies in the late 1980s.
He oversaw the destruction and massacre of successive Muslim and Croat communities, only to have Mr. Milosevic drop the idea of uniting the Bosnian Serb areas with Serbia when it became too politically expensive.
Mr. Milosevic is believed to fear that if the former Bosnian Serb leader is taken to The Hague he could reveal information that would lead to the Yugoslav president's own indictment for his part in planning the civil war.
A previous NATO operation to arrest Mr. Karadzic was said to have been foiled by a French army officer who reportedly leaked details of the plan during secret meetings with the fugitive Serbian leader.
The French deny that they have been soft on the indicted Bosnian Serbs living in their territory, but their soldiers have been filmed drinking in the same bars as the men they are supposed to be arresting.
Louise Arbour, former Hague chief prosecutor, has described the French zone as a "safe haven" for war crimes suspects and, despite Mr. Krajisnik's arrest, tribunal officials say that essentially nothing has changed.

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