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The chairmen of a key congressional human rights panel Tuesday applauded Serbia’s new pro-Western government for the arrest of war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic, whose flight from justice for more than a dozen years blackened the reputation of the former Yugoslav republic.

“This arrest marks a very important step for both Serbia and Bosnia,” said Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and co-chairman of the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Mr. Karadzic, who will face the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, is accused of crimes against humanity for his leadership of Serbian forces that slaughtered thousands of Bosnian civilians in the 1990s.

“It is my sincere hope that the apprehension of Radovan Karadzic and what I expect to be his prompt transfer to The Hague indicates a clear determination by Serbia to rid itself of the nationalist legacy of the 1990s,” the congressman added.

Co-chairman Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said: “I applaud the coordinated efforts of the Republic of Serbia, the Serbian Security Service and the various international security agencies for apprehending this war criminal.”

The indictment of Mr. Karadzic includes charges that he ordered the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in the so-called U.N. “safe haven” of Srebrenica. Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Serbian military leader at the time, remains at large.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.