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15 May 07

Serbian Police Left Empty Handed After Mladic Raid

Belgrade _ Serbia’s military police units stormed Tuesday a military building in central Belgrade in an attempt to arrest Gen Ratko Mladic, the top-wanted war crimes fugitive, but were left empty handed, a government official responsible for cooperation with the UN war crimes court said.


“They did not arrest Gen Mladic,” Rasim Ljajic who coordinates a committee tasked with cooperation with the Netherlands-based war crimes tribunal told deputies during a parliamentary debate over new government.

“Appropriate agencies were acting on suspicion that Mladic could have been hiding at the military hotel situated in Deligradska Street, in downtown Belgrade", Ljajic said.

Earlier today military police stormed the hotel housing officers who fled Serbia’s breakaway province of Kosovo in 1999, eyewitnesses and deputies of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, SRS, said.

During an ongoing parliamentary debate on the formation of Serbia’s new government, Aleksandar Vucic, the deputy head of the SRS, said that police had sought to arrest Ratko Mladic, the Netherlands-based UN war crimes tribunal's most-wanted man, who is suspected of committing genocide during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.

Vucic said that the squad were “arresting generals who defended our country," and alleged that “some defence minister has ordered the arrest of Mladic”.

“Police arrested one man, but that was not Mladic,” Vucic said. His account could not be immediately verified.

Eyewitnesses interviewed by Balkan Insight living in a nearby building said that a number of policemen entered the premises.

Dragan Jocic, Serbia's Interior Minister said at the parliament's session that the "Military Intelligence Agency has undertaken a number of investigative and operational measures related with the war crimes. That action is over." He said that the Military Intelligence Agency "is expected to issue the statement." Jocic did not elaborate further.

Opposition Deputy Parliament speaker Milutin Mrkonjic of the Socialist Party of Serbia has resigned in protest over the authorities’ attempt of arrestingMladic.


Also on Tuesday, Vladimir Vukcevic, Serbia’s chief war crimes prosecutor, said at a press conference that the search for Mladic "has not stopped for even a moment”, and that reporters will “soon be able to see that."

Last year, the European Union suspended talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia because of its government’s inability to capture Mladic. But a number of EU officials said last week that the bloc may resume the negotiations even without Mladic’s arrest.

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