Karadzic's wife makes television plea: 'Give yourself up'

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"I beg you to come to that decision for the sake of all of us" Ljiljana Zelen Karadzic said. She addressed the camera and, of course, Mr Karadzic very slowly, with sighs holding back the tears.

Mrs Karadzic backed her husband in his escape from justice in the past eight years. The two are student day sweethearts, since the time they attended medical school in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.

A set of love letters written in 2002 by Mr Karadzic to his loyal wife recently surfaced there. In the letters he claimed to love her as tenderly as ever.

"Our family is under constant pressure from all sides" Mrs Karadzic said yesterday. "It's painful and hard but I beg you, with all my heart and soul, to surrender", she added. The interview was recorded at her pink house in Pale, war-time capital of Bosnian Serbs, 16km east of Sarajevo.

It remains unclear what made Mrs Karadzic change her mind, but analysts point out that her unprecedented call came at the time when the net around her husband seems to have started closing.

Nato troops in Bosnia arrested Mr Karadzic's son Sasa earlier this month and questioned him for a week about his father's whereabouts. The arrest came days ahead of the ceremony commemorating 10 years of the massacre of 8,000 Muslim boys and men in the eastern town of Srebrenica.

The international war crimes tribunal indicted Mr Karadzic for genocide and other war crimes in 1992-95 war in Bosnia, including the massacre in Srebrenica. His war time commander General Ratko Mladic is accused for the same war crime. Both went underground years ago and the Karadzic family long denied any knowledge of where the former leader was hiding.

In early July, Serbian searched the houses of Mr Karadzic's two brothers, Luka and Ivan in Belgrade and the neighbouring town of Obrenovac, looking for any clues on the fugitive.

At the time, Mr Luka Karadzic said his brother would never surrender to the war crimes tribunal, as he was "being protected by God and his people".

The same stand was always shared by Mrs Karadzic herself. "No one in the family can influence Radovan to surrender" Mrs Karadzic told Belgrade's Evropa magazine only last week. "Last month was his 60th birthday. He alone decides about his own life".

However, Mrs Karadzic admitted in the interview that she met her husband briefly in 2001, in a visit apparently organised at a secret location by his security guards. "I received a message, I saw him for an hour and left" she said.

Many stories have circulated about Mr Karadzic's whereabouts. He was said to have travelled in ambulances with flashing lights to zip through Nato checkpoints in Bosnia. Rumours said he travelled disguised as a woman or an Orthodox priest.