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Holbrooke denies US deal with Karadzic

Former US negotiator Richard Holbrooke told CNN that Radovan Karadzic's allegations that he had cut a deal with the US were false.


Former US negotiator Richard Holbrooke denied in an interview aired Thursday that he once cut a deal with ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic that would have allowed him to avoid facing war crimes charges in exchange for keeping a low profile.

Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton peace agreement that ended the Bosnian conflict, told CNN he won a commitment from Karadzic in July 1996 to step down from his political positions.

"I negotiated a very tough deal. He had to step down immediately from both his posts as president of the Serb part of Bosnia and as head of his party. And he did so," Holbrooke said in a recorded interview.

"But when he disappeared, he put out a piece of disinformation that I had cut a deal with him if he disappeared we wouldn't pursue him. That was a completely false statement."

In his first appearance before the UN war crimes court on Thursday in The Hague, Karadzic alleged to have made a deal with Holbrooke at the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian war that involved him withdrawing from public life, which he said has since put his life at risk.

It was agreed that he would lie low, said Karadzic, "in return the United States of America would fulfill their commitments". But he did not say what these were.

Holbrooke also said it was a grave mistake that Karadzic was not arrested after NATO forces deployed to Bosnia following the peace agreement.

"He should have been arrested. His green Mercedes was parked in its parking spot outside his office for six months after (the 1995 Dayton peace agreement) each day. The NATO commander at the time refused to arrest him even though he had the authority to do so.

"It was a terrible mistake."

Holbrooke described Karadzic as the "intellectual architect" behind an ideology of racial hatred in former Yugoslavia.

"Of all the evil men of the Balkans, he is the worst," Holbrooke said.

During negotiations in September 1995, Karadzic "went ballistic" when he was told that NATO bombing of Serb targets would intensify if he did not lift the siege of Sarajevo, Holbrooke said.

Karadzic "said he was going to call former president Jimmy Carter, his friend.

"I said, 'Fine, we work for president Clinton. You call Carter, we're walking out and the bombing will intensify.' He agreed that night to lifting the siege of Sarajevo," Holbrooke said.

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