- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro — War crimes fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the Bosnian war, has been located and authorities are negotiating his surrender, a top state security official said yesterday.

Gen. Mladic was located but “he has not yet been arrested,” said the official, who is close to the operation to locate the general.

The state news agency Tanjug, however, reported that Gen. Mladic was arrested in Belgrade and was being taken to a U.S.-run air base for transport to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

The private Beta news agency said Gen. Mladic was found on Cer Mountain, about 60 miles west of Belgrade on the border with Bosnia.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica denied reports that Gen. Mladic was arrested.

Srdjan Djuric called the reports a “manipulation” to attempt to derail the government’s efforts to detain the wartime Bosnian Serb army commander, who has been on the run since the 1990s.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Gen. Mladic “continues to be a fugitive from justice.” He said he had no information on whether Gen. Mladic had been arrested or apprehended.

Gen. Mladic is wanted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal on genocide charges for purportedly orchestrating Europe’s worst carnage since World War II — the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in 1995 — and for other crimes during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

Serbia, seeking to establish closer ties with the European Union and NATO, faces renewed international isolation if it fails to extradite Gen. Mladic to the U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

EU officials have warned that Serbia’s initial talks on joining the 25-nation bloc could be frozen unless Gen. Mladic is handed over by the end of February.

Officials at the European Union, NATO and The Hague said they had no information about Gen. Mladic’s reported arrest.

However, Florence Hartmann, spokeswoman for the Yugoslav tribunal, repeated assertions made by Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that Gen. Mladic is in Serbia and “in the immediate reach of the authorities.”

“We have said for the last 10 days that the arrest could take place very quickly,” she said.

Earlier yesterday, senior Kostunica aide Vladeta Jankovic predicted that Gen. Mladic would be captured “soon.” He said the government wanted to persuade Gen. Mladic to surrender.

Gen. Mladic is No. 2 on the tribunal’s most-wanted list after Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who remains at large. Gen. Mladic, who is at least 62, has a $5 million State Department bounty on his head. He was known to have made daring forays into Belgrade in recent years to watch soccer games and feast on fish at an elite restaurant.

Under an indictment last amended in October 2002, the U.N. war crimes tribunal charged Gen. Mladic with 15 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed from 1992 to 1996.

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