February 22, 2006

Mladic still at large, Del Ponte urges arrest

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Chief U.N. prosecutor Carla del Ponte
on Wednesday denied rumours that top war crimes fugitive Ratko
Mladic had been arrested and urged Serbia to find him or risk
hurting its bid to join the European Union.

She dismissed reports that negotiations were under way for
his surrender, but said Serbia must arrest the former Bosnian
Serb commander soon or damage its EU membership talks.

"There is no indication at all that negotiations about his
surrender are currently under way," she told a news conference.

"Ratko Mladic is in Serbia, there is no doubt about this.
He has been there since 1998. During all this time he has been,
and he remains within reach of the Serbian authorities. He can
and must be arrested immediately," she told a news conference.

Despite official denials by Serbia, rumours have been
swirling since Tuesday that the 63-year-old fugitive was either
under arrest or being talked into surrender to salvage
Belgrade's membership talks with the European Union.

"Serbia knows that negotiations may be suspended or may
never conclude if Belgrade fails to cooperate fully with the
ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia)," she said.

It is up to the EU to decide on any membership bid but del
Ponte has influence as she gets to rule whether states are
"cooperating fully."

The EU decides next week on whether to continue talks with
Belgrade or freeze them as punishment for not arresting Mladic.
His handover is increasingly seen by many Serbs as a necessary
sacrifice, but others view him as a blameless soldier.

Del Ponte urged the EU to keep pushing Belgrade over

"I need now a stronger support of the European Union to
have Mladic in The Hague very, very soon. Clear deadlines
associated with clear sanctions will produce early results,"
she said.

Mladic was indicted along with his political boss Radovan
Karadzic in 1995 for genocide for the 43-month siege of
Sarajevo, which claimed 12,000 lives, and for orchestrating the
1995 massacre of 8,000 unarmed Muslims at Srebrenica.