By Beti Bilandzic
BELGRADE, May 12 (Reuters) - Most Serbs still do not believe their forces committed atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia or Kosovo, a senior United States diplomat said on Thursday, so the idea of holding war crimes trials in the country is problematic.
Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia are all trying to show their capacity to deal with the past after the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, insisting they are ready and able to dispense justice for war crimes cases at home.
U.S. charge d'affaires Roderick Moore, speaking at a seminar in Belgrade, said Serbs widely failed to recognise that their countrymen had committed war crimes, making it difficult for the judiciary to prosecute and convict perpetrators.
"I don't believe the political climate in Serbia is wholly favourable for trying war crimes impartially in domestic courts," said Moore, speaking in Serbian.
"I don't believe that your society has accepted the full extent of the crimes Serbs committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo," he added.
The seminar was part of a debate on whether countries involved in the wars sparked by the breakup of Yugoslavia were ready to take over some of the heavy caseload of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Moore said less than half of Serbia's population believed that 7,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica in 1995 by the forces of Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic, despite the testimony of witnesses, graves found and even the admission of Bosnian Serbs.
"Only 37 percent believe it is a war crime and only 38 percent believe Mladic should go to The Hague to answer for the crime," the envoy said.
Polls show the level of denial is similar for other atrocities, such as the killing of some 200 prisoners of war in Vukovar in Croatia in 1991, or for the 800 Kosovo Albanian bodies buried in Serbia during the 1999 war and found later.
"Your society doubts the crimes happened at all," he said.
Serbia significantly improved its cooperation with the U.N. court this year, delivering 12 suspects since January in line with a surrender policy that earned Belgrade European Union approval to forge closer ties with the wealthy bloc.
While welcoming that, Moore criticised the way officials hailed those who surrendered as "patriots" and failed to point to the crimes with which they were charged.
"Officials organised lavish farewell parties for some of them," he told the seminar.