Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic was protected by the United States until a CIA phone bug caught him breaking the terms of his "deal", the Serb newspaper Blic reported Saturday, quoting a US intelligence source.
The newspaper claims Karadzic was secretly granted immunity in return for keeping a low profile.
"Karadzic, indicted for genocide and war crimes, was under US protection until 2000, when the CIA intercepted his telephone conversation that clearly proved he personally chaired a meeting of his old political party," the daily quoted a "well-informed US intelligence source" as saying.
That view partly echoed what Karadzic himself told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in his opening written submission this week. He told The Hague-based court that US peace negotiator in Bosnia, Richard Holbrooke, had promised he would avoid trial if he withdrew from public life.
Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade last month after more than a decade as a fugitive and transferred to the ICTY to be tried for alleged war crimes during the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia.
Holbrooke has insisted that no deal with Karadzic existed.
The Blic source said: "I'm not sure there was a written document confirming so, but I do have Holbrooke's admission of verbal guarantees given to Karadzic from the highest level of the US."
"During the year 2000, at the time of the (November general) elections in Bosnia, the CIA learned that Karadzic was still leading the SDS (the Serbian Democratic Party, founded by Karadzic), despite their deal that he was not to interfere in political life," the source added, according to the newspaper.
"In 2000 there was a SDS meeting in (the eastern Bosnian town of) Bijeljina, chaired personally by Karadzic. He was providing instructions to members and the leadership who should be replaced and who should be appointed to which position," it said.
Karadzic "was personally engaged in all activities of the SDS," the source said.
"In America they went crazy realising Karadzic was making a fool of them," it said, adding that "the Americans and CIA then withdrew the informal protection enjoyed by Karadzic."
Karadzic also was granted immunity from the arrest by other intelligence services, such as the French and British one, as a part of the deal with the CIA, the daily claimed.
In a separate report by the state-run Radio Belgrade, former Bosnian Serb foreign minister Aleksa Buha claimed he witnessed the deal.
"Holbrooke strongly promised me that The Hague tribunal would be history for Karadzic if he withrdrew from politics forever," Buha told the radio.
The promise was allegedly given at a meeting in Belgrade "overnight 18 and 19 July, 1996," also attended by then Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and foreign minister Milan Milutinovic, as well as former Bosnian Serb official Momcilo Krajisnik, Buha said.