WAR CRIMES - EU

Serbia clueless but determined to hunt down Mladic

The United Nations' chief war crimes prosecutor began a two-day visit to Serbia, seen by Belgrade as a chance to show its own determination to arrest remaining war crimes fugitives including Ratko Mladic and unblock its path to the EU.

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Serbia's fruitless hunt for genocide suspect Ratko Mladic will further stall its European integration, said a minister who met Monday with the UN chief war crimes prosecutor.

"We don't have any trace that leads to Mladic, unless a miracle happens," said Rasim Ljajic, the Serbian minister in charge of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb general, "hid in Serbia up until 2006, that's evident, (but) we don't have any information since the first half of 2006," Ljajic told B92 television.

"At this moment, there is nobody who can say 'Mladic is in Serbia,' or 'Mladic isn't in Serbia'."

He expressed pessimism about a bi-annual report war crimes' prosecutor Brammertz is to make to the UN Security Council based on two days of talks in Belgrade with senior political and security officials including Ljajic.

Ljajic said Serbia had given up on hopes the report could prove it is fully cooperating with his tribunal, a condition for the European Union to unblock a trade and aid agreement with the country, which aspires to join the EU bloc.

But he added that EU member the Netherlands, where the UN court is based, has hardened its stance and now insists exclusively on the arrest and transfer of Mladic.

A Dutch government was forced to resign in 2002 over the perceived inaction of its peacekeepers based in the ill-fated Bosnian town of Srebrenica at the time of Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

"Even if the report by Serge Brammertz about Serbia's cooperation with The Hague tribunal is totally positive, the Netherlands will block the application of the agreement," said Ljajic.

Brammertz's visit to Belgrade comes just days after Serbian security forces conducted a search for Mladic in a factory in the country's southwest that turned out to be futile.

Ljajic said the search of the Vujic Valjevo factory one week ago was not merely a show intended to impress the UN prosecutor.

"The international community is no longer interested in our efforts, our actions, our exercises, our activity," the minister said.

"They are interested in concrete results, because we already showed our readiness and political will" by arresting Mladic's wartime boss, Radovan Karadzic, in the Serbian capital four months ago, he added.

Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac said last week that Mladic may be lying low as a result of the arrest and transfer to The Hague of Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president.

Karadzic was arrested in July on a bus in Belgrade, where he had been living incognito behind a thick beard as an alternative medicine guru.

Both he and Mladic are wanted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during Bosnia's 1992-1995 conflict.

Their indictments, which the ICTY issued in 1995, notably relate to the siege of Sarajevo which claimed more than 10,000 lives and the Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim males.

Mladic is widely thought to be hiding out in Serbia with the help of small, tightly knit networks of loyalists.

Besides the former Bosnian Serb general, the only other war crimes fugitive still wanted by the UN court is Goran Hadzic, the wartime Croatian Serb leader.

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