Karadzic `preparing to surrender'

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The Independent Online
IT appeared yesterday that the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, was preparing to surrender to the United Nations court in The Hague to face war crimes charges. He is believed to have fled his stronghold in Pale but his whereabouts could not be confirmed. Mr Karadzic faces two counts of genocide for his part in the massacres of Muslims during the 1992/95 Bosnian war.

A Western diplomatic source said that a negotiating process had been going on for some time and Karadzic could be giving himself up to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague in "days or weeks".

"Karadzic has been in touch indicating that he is thinking seriously of giving himself up and there have even been a couple of incidents recently where that was expected but he apparently got cold feet .... He has sent signals that he wants certain conditions," the source said.

Asked if Karadzic had been in indirect contact with the tribunal, which has indicted him on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, the source said there was "a good chance of that since he apparently realises his only hope of obtaining special conditions is to surrender".

A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed that Nato's most wanted man appeared to have left Pale, 10 miles outside Sarajevo, along with his private security force of some 400 men. "All I can say is that we haven't forgotten the indictments, that his place is in The Hague, and with that size of guard, it shouldn't be hard to track him down," the spokesman said.

French intelligence sources told Le Monde that Mr Karadzic had fled Bosnia last November and was hiding in an eastern European country, probably Belarus. He had hired two American lawyers who were discussing the terms under which he might surrender.

The net has been closing ever tighter around Mr Karadzic in recent days, starting with last week's unannounced and deliberately intimidatory visit to his headquarters by hundreds of Nato troops, backed by tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Then on Wednesday came the arrest of two indicted Bosnian Serbs suspects in a part of Bosnia patrolled by British troops.

Of the 74 people publicly indicted with Bosnian war crimes, 25 are now in custody in the Hague. But the key targets are Mr Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic, who also faces two genocide counts. Mladic is believed to be still in Bosnia, at a heavily protected military base.

"Karadzic's days at large are becoming shorter and shorter," Carlos Westendorp, the top Western envoy to Bosnia, declared this week. "He may be in Russia or Serbia. But the only safe country for him right now is North Korea."