Monday, October 16, 2006

Serbia Still Not Cooperating On Mladic - UN Prosecutor

LUXEMBOURG (AP)--The chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal said Monday she would tell European Union foreign ministers that Serbia is still not cooperating with her efforts to bring fugitives to justice - a key condition for the resumption of talks to prepare the Balkan nation for E.U. membership.

Asked if her report to the E.U. ministers would be negative, Carla Del Ponte said, "yes, of course, because Mladic is not in The Hague."

The Bosnian Serb's fugitive war leader Gen. Ratko Mladic is a leading target for the international court based in the Dutch city.

Del Ponte spoke briefly to reporters on her way to her talks with the E.U. ministers. They, in turn, would meet with Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica.

The 25-nation bloc has suspended negotiations with Serbia on a trade-and-aid agreement designed to pave the way for E.U. membership, saying Belgrade must prove it is fully cooperating with the war crimes tribunal. Asked if she saw any encouraging signs, Del Ponte said, "absolutely not."

Kostunica was also likely to be grilled over his nation's draft constitution, which has raised concerns within the E.U. because it declares independence-seeking Kosovo an integral part of Serb territory.

European officials said Belgrade's position on Kosovo was seen as provocative and if passed in an Oct. 28-29 referendum, it could scuttle U.N.-led talks on the future status of the Serb province.

Status talks, led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, started early this year but have yet to produce results, with the ethnic Albanians demanding independence from Serbia and Belgrade offering broad autonomy but no independence. Kosovo has been run by the U.N. since a 1999 war.

Despite the lack of progress in the talks, E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana was confident Kosovo would not slide back into violence.

"I have no doubt it will be resolved in a peaceful manner," he told reporters as he arrived for the meeting.

Ahtisaari is expected to report to the U.N. Security Council by the end of the year on a possible solution to Kosovo's future; however he warned last week there was no negotiated deal in sight because of the deep divisions between both sides.

Mladic has evaded justice since his 1995 indictment for the massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica during the war in neighboring Bosnia. He is believed by U.N. prosecutors to be hiding in Serbia with the help of hard-liners in the police and military, but also a litter of Serb loyalists. [ 16-10-06 1520GMT ]

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