Wednesday, December 01, 2004

British defense secretary meets with Serbia-Montenegro leaders

Geoff Hoon met with the Balkan country's top officials on Wednesday to
discuss defense cooperation and press anew for extradition of Serb suspects
indicted by the U.N. war crimes court.

Visiting Belgrade as part of his Balkan tour, Hoon first met with Serbia-
Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic and promised to help Serbia-
Montenegro' ongoing defense reforms, a part of the Balkan country's efforts
to strengthen ties with NATO and the European Union.

But Western demands for more than a dozen wanted Serbs to be handed over to
the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, has been a
huge obstacle to aid plans. Hoon said he had a ``very frank discussion''
with Marovic on the issue.

``It is important that those who are indicted are sent to The Hague,'' Hoon
said after the meeting and then held further talks, with Serbian President
Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

Marovic pledged to continue to make the army ``more efficient and

He acknowledged that demands for war crimes suspects had been a ``dark
cloud above our heads.''

``We will bring that job to the end,'' Marovic tersely added and appealed
for ``understanding ... the issue is politically sensitive.''

The suspects include Bosnian Serb wartime commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, and
four Serbian police and army generals indicted in connection with the
1998-1999 war in Serbia's southern Kosovo province.

Tadic supports extraditing the suspects, but Kostunica has been reluctant
to make arrests and has asked them to surrender voluntarily. (

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