Radovan Karadzic's arrest this year may make it harder to track down fellow suspected Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic, whom investigators say may have gone to ground.
Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic may be lying low after the arrest of his former ally Radovan Karadzic and may be harder to track down, Serbia's defence minister warned Tuesday.
Speaking one day after Serbian security forces raided a factory in the south of the country looking for clues as to the former general's whereabouts, Dragan Sutanovac played down hopes of an imminent arrest.
"After the arrest of Karadzic everybody said that now we are on the way to Mladic, but personally I think that now it's more difficult to find Mladic," he told AFP in Paris during a short Armistice Day visit to France.
Sutanovac said Serbia would not hesitate to arrest Mladic and immediately extradite him to face war crimes charges in The Hague, but warned that the general's supporters may be taking better steps to protect him.
"They are more patient than before. If before they were relaxed, after the arrest of Karadzic they are not relaxed now. They care much more than before. It will be more difficult to find him now," he warned.
Mladic, 66, is wanted by a UN tribunal over allegations that he carried out genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during his time as commander of the Bosnian Serb military forces during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.
Karadzic, who was Mladic's boss as the political leader of the breakaway Bosnian Serb statelet, was arrested in July on a bus in Belgrade, where he had been living incognito behind a thick beard as an alternative medicine guru.
In particular, Mladic faces charges relating to the siege of Sarajevo which claimed more than 10,000 lives and for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys -- Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.
After the war he was at first able to live fairly openly in Serbia, and was protected by allies in the armed forces until at least 2002, but Serbia is now seeking a future in the European Union and has vowed to arrest him.
Last month, Serbia said it had intensified its hunt for Mladic to an unprecedented level ahead of a confirmed visit in a week's time by the UN tribunal's chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz.
On Monday, masked police hunting Mladic raided a factory in the southwest Serbian town of Valjevo.
"As I know, they were looking for evidence yesterday, not for him personally," Sutanovac said. "This government will respect the law and if we find him, we have to arrest him and send him to The Hague."
Sutanovac said that small numbers of Mladic's supporters still hold daily protests in Belgrade and have tried to intimidate both the minister and his family, but he insisted the Serbian government would not back down.
"We have sent much more popular generals to The Hague than Mladic, and we didn't have any problems," he said. "So I think this kind of decision will not be discussed as if we were afraid of some right-wing organisations."
Serbia fought on the side of Britain and France in World War I and Sutanovac said he was "very proud" to have been invited to France to attend the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that brought that war to an end.
He also talked with France's junior defence minister Jean-Marie Bockel about increased defence cooperation between the countries, perhaps allowing Serbian officers to once more study at the Saint Cyr military academy.
Date created : 2008-11-12