News 23 May 07

Serbian President Pledges to Push for Mladic Arrest

Belgrade _ Serbian president Boris Tadic announced Wednesday he will personally direct efforts to apprehend top war crimes fugitive General Ratko Mladic.

Following a meeting in Belgrade with Olli Rehn, the European Union’s Enlargement Commissioner, Tadic said that the security agencies and state bodies were “working on [the Mladic] issue very hard,” however “we could not solve it”.

“I am going to be head of the newly formed Security Council and I am taking responsibility for some of its actions in the future. I can't say when [the arrest] is going to be, but I'm going to push with all my strength for it very hard," Tadic told reporters

According to a coalition deal that paved the way for the formation of the new Serbian government late on Tuesday, Tadic, as the head of the National Security Council, will oversee and coordinate the activities of country’s intelligence agencies.

Earlier, Rehn, the first foreign official to visit Belgrade after the formation of the new cabinet, said he expects that the government will ``rigorously implement'' its programme on cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The new Serbian government has set the country’s membership of the EU and NATO as its ultimate goals. The EU, however, suspended its Stabilization and Association Agreement with Belgrade last year over the government’s inability to arrest Mladic who is sought for genocide during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.

"We are ready to resume SAA talks very soon, once we see that the new government’s plan is rigorously conducted in terms of cooperation with the ICTY," Rehn said after meeting the new foreign minister Vuk Jeremic.

Earlier yesterday, Serbian military police and agents from the Military Intelligence Agency raided a military-owned hotel in Belgrade in an unsuccessful attempt to arrest Mladic.

Rehn also announced that the EU and Serbian negotiators have signed agreements on visa-related matters.

Meanwhile, in a statement released in Brussels Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, said that the agreements are important because “I strongly believe that facilitating people to people contacts between Serbia and the EU can greatly help in increasing mutual understanding and improving our relations in all fields”.

The agreements will allow businesspeople, students, people who need medical treatment abroad and journalists to travel with fewer visa restrictions. Serbia also agreed it will accept readmission of its citizens who illegally work and live in the EU.

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