- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Serbian government warned former Bosnian Serb military leader Gen. Ratko Mladic on Tuesday that the noose around his neck is tightening after Monday’s capture of his fellow war-crimes suspect and one-time friend and political ally Radovan Karadzic.

Mr. Karadzic was found by a team sent by the government to trail people thought to be helping Gen. Mladic, and similar methods will be used to locate and arrest the ex-general, said Rasim Ljajic, the Serbian minister responsible for relations with the U.N. war-crimes tribunal at The Hague.

“We will use this information to track down the other Hague accused,” Mr. Ljajic said in reference to Gen. Madic at a brief press conference in Belgrade carried live by international television networks.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who was one of many Western negotiators trying to stop the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the first half of the 1990s, predicted that Gen. Mladic would be much more careful about appearing in public after Mr. Karadzic’s arrest.

“I think he will follow one way or another,” Mr. Bildt told the British Broadcasting Corp. “He will take extreme measures to avoid being picked up, and that might make it difficult.”

Diplomats and political analysts were still trying to weigh the larger significance of Mr. Karadzic’s surprise capture. Serbia’s isolation and cool relations with the West have sprung in part from suspicions that it had not done enough to bring Mr. Karadzic and war-crimes suspects to justice.

“It is much more significant that just catching one guy,” said Janusz Bugajski, director of the New European Democracies Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It is important for the new government in Serbia to demonstrate that it is cooperating with the international community.”

The capture won Belgrade rare unanimous praise from the White House, leading Western European capitals and the United Nations. It is considered a particular coup for moderate Serb President Boris Tadic, who has pushed for closer ties to the West against strong nationalist parties.

But Fatmir Sejdiu, president of the new Republic of Kosovo, which broke bitterly from Serbia earlier this year, said many in the region believe that Belgrade still is harboring other war criminals.

“We can say that for over a decade many different Serbian governments have hidden and sheltered war criminals,” Mr. Sejdiu said Tuesday on a visit to Washington. “Many are convinced - and not just in Kosovo - that the Serbian government still knows where many of these figures are.”

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said the arrest showed that Belgrade is committed to a future in the European Union.

“We are very serious about our future in the European Union, we demonstrated this yesterday” with Mr. Karadzic’s arrest, he told reporters in Brussels.

“We want to be a cornerstone of peace, we want to be a regional player for regional stability,” he added.

Mr. Karadzic lived freely in Belgrade, using the name Dragan Dabic and posed as a doctor of alternative medicine. He disguised his identity by wearing long hair, a beard and glasses, Mr. Ljajic said, showing a photograph to illustrate his point.

Mr. Ljajic added that Mr. Karadzic, 63 and a psychiatrist by training, had been living convincingly as a non-Serbian citizen, using false papers, and that his house had been under surveillance for days.

“He was working in a private practice and the last place where he had residence was New Belgrade,” Mr. Ljajic in reference to one of the Serbian capital’s neighborhoods.

Serbia’s war-crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said at the Belgrade press conference that Mr. Karadzic had been questioned and his identity confirmed. A judge has ordered Mr. Karadzic´s transfer to The Hague, and the suspect has three days to appeal the decision, Mr. Vukcevic said.

The Serbian government said that Mr. Karadzic was detained Monday “in an action by the Serbian security services.” His lawyer said the arrest had been made Friday on a public bus.

“He just said that these people showed him a police badge and then he was taken to some place and kept in the room,” Sveta Vujacic told Associated Press Television News.

The former Bosnian Serb political leader has been a fugitive for 13 years. He has been charged with organizing the infamous deadly siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of as many as 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica.

The official charges, last amended in May 2000, include genocide, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts and other crimes committed against Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb civilians in Bosnia during the 1992-95 war.

cDavid R. Sands contributed to this report.

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