- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia The Yugoslav government has denied that its security forces are hiding a notorious Bosnian war crimes suspect, but a crackdown on corruption among senior army and police officials has begun.

Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, last week told the U.N. Security Council that Ratko Mladic was living in Yugoslavia and being protected by the Yugoslav army.

Gen. Mladic was the military leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-1995 war and was indicted by the court in The Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity.

He is accused in the Srebernica massacre, in which more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were executed.

"As an officer of the Yugoslav army, Gen. Mladic is said to enjoy military immunity, and he is being shielded from both national and international justice," Mrs. Del Ponte said.

Mrs. Del Ponte didn't reveal the source of her information, but deputy prosecutor Graham Blewitt said it was reliable and that tribunal officials were "confident" that officials in Belgrade knew Gen. Mladic's exact location.

The next day, Mr. Blewitt confirmed that Yugoslav army Chief of Staff Nebojsa Pavkovic and top police official Sreten Lukic were under investigation by the tribunal.

Gen. Pavkovic was commander of the Yugoslav third army and responsible for all military actions during the Kosovo war. Mr. Lukic was his counterpart in the police, as chief of the headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.

Gen. Pavkovic still holds his former job, and Mr. Lukic is now head of the Public Security Division of the Serbian Interior Ministry.

Serbia is the larger of the two republics which make up Yugoslavia.

That both men hold important jobs even after their former boss, Slobodan Milosevic, was thrown out of power and arrested has been a source of tension between Belgrade and the international community.

On Friday, Vojislav Kostunica, Mr. Milosevic's replacement as leader of Yugoslavia, said the investigations into Gen. Pavkovic and Mr. Lukic "can only threaten the stability of the country at a time when it is most needed."

He said that the two men "did nothing but defend their country against NATO bombing."

NATO's 78-day bombing campaign in 1999 ended with Mr. Milosevic giving up control of the province of Kosovo, whose majority Albanian population had rebelled against Belgrade.

Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic denied that Gen. Mladic was under the protection of the Yugoslav government and asked Mrs. Del Ponte to provide proof of her claims.

"Theoretically speaking, just about anyone could be here," he said.

Mr. Milosevic was arrested in April on domestic corruption charges and handed over to The Hague after Western governments threatened to withhold aid.

Mr. Kostunica reflecting the views of most Serbs strongly opposes the tribunal, calling it a political tool and anti-Serbian.

Mr. Milosevic is facing a charge of genocide for his role in Bosnia, as well as lesser charges for the wars in Croatia and Kosovo.

The controversy comes at a tense time for the security forces. Several members of the police special forces unit called the Red Berets rebelled last month because, they claimed, they were tricked into arresting two men that were to be sent to The Hague. The officers demanded they not be involved in any such arrests.

The rebellion ended when top officials agreed to change the unit's command structure, and now Mr. Lukic has direct authority over the Red Berets.

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