Bildt lauds Serbia over hunt for war criminals

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt praised Belgrade's efforts to track down war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic during a visit to Stockholm on Tuesday of his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic.

“Serbia is working very hard … The moment General Mladic is located, he will be handed over to The Hague,” where he has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Jeremic said after talks with Bildt.

“We’re working very hard, but if you’re in hiding, if you’re a wartime commander hiding in a mountainous region … it’s not always very easy to find these guys,” he said.

Mladic and wartime Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic have been indicted for some of Europe’s worst atrocities since World War II, notably the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims and the siege of Sarajevo that claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Karadzic was captured in Belgrade in July.

“Mladic has a more effective and extensive support network than Karadzic has … So it is … a much harder nut to crack,” Bildt said.

The Serbian government led by President Boris Tadic’s Democratic Party took over in July from one headed by former nationalist prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, who favoured voluntary surrenders of war crimes fugitives.

Within two weeks, the new government had ordered the arrest of Karadzic, before handing him over to the UN war crimes court in The Hague.

Bildt praised the new government’s efforts.

“More importantly … We don’t have doubts any longer” about the government’s commitment, he said.

Serbia’s full cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal is a key condition for its integration into the European Union.

UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz is expected to visit Belgrade this week to appraise its cooperation with the tribunal.

The European Commission said last week Serbia could be granted EU candidate status next year if the conditions are fulfilled.