Ratko Mladic on plane to Hague tribunal

The Serbian justice minister has confirmed Ratko Mladic is on plane on his way to The Hague.

Snezana Malovic says the process of extraditing Mladic to the UN war crimes tribunal "has started."

Judges earlier rejected Mladic's appeal to stop the extradition just hours after it was received.

Mladic's defence had argued the 69-year-old is not mentally and physically fit to stand trial.

Mladic is charged at the tribunal for atrocities committed by his Serb troops during Bosnia's 1992-5 war.

They include the notorious Srebrenica massacre that left 8,000 Muslim men and boys dead - the worst atrocity against civilians in Europe since the Second World War.

Earlier Mladic was briefly released from the jail cell, travelling in a secret high-security convoy to a suburban cemetery where he left a lone candle for the daughter who killed herself during Bosnia's bloody ethnic war.

The 69-year-old former Bosnian Serb general accused of some of the worst horrors of the 1992-5 war was accompanied by a convoy of several armoured vehicles on a swift and quiet trip, Mr Verkaric said.

At the black marble grave, Mladic left a lit candle and a small white bouquet of flowers with a red rose in the middle.

"We didn't announce his visit to the grave because it is his private thing and because it represented a security risk," Mr Vekaric said. "The whole operation lasted for exactly 22 minutes and passed without a glitch. He was at the grave for a few minutes."

Mladic was arrested on Thursday in a village north of Belgrade after 16 years on the run.

His 23-year-old daughter Ana, a medical student, committed suicide in 1994 with her father's pistol. She reportedly never wrote a suicide note, but media reports at the time said she ended her life at Mladic's Belgrade family house because of depression caused by her father's role in the war.

Mladic has rejected the official investigation into his case and claimed she was killed by his wartime enemies, saying the pistol was found in her left hand, although she was right-handed.

In addition to the appeal, Mladic attorney Milos Saljic had asked for a team of doctors to examine Mladic, who is said to have suffered at least two strokes.

Mr Vekaric accused Mladic of using delaying tactics and said nothing should prevent his extradition to tribunal.

"Doctors are saying he's capable of standing trial," Vekaric said, adding that Mladic will get proper medical check-ups once he arrives to the UN tribunal's detention unit in The Hague.

The prosecutor said no one will be informed when Mladic will be transported from his prison and flown to the Netherlands "because of security risks."

Yesterday Serbian President Boris Tadic rejected speculation that authorities had known of Mladic's hiding place and delayed his arrest to coincide with a visit by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The rumours have persisted because Mladic was found living not far from the capital, Belgrade, with relatives who share his last name.

"Any such comment makes no sense," Tadic said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The truth is that we arrested Ratko Mladic the moment we discovered him."

The president also said it's time for the European Union to do its part by boosting his nation's efforts to join the bloc, arguing the arrest of Mladic proves it is serious about rejoining the international fold.

"I simply ask the EU to fulfil its part," he said. "We fulfilled our part and we will continue to do so."

The EU had repeatedly said that Serbia could begin pre-membership talks only after it arrested the wartime Bosnian Serb commander. Some EU nations have already said Serbia needs to do more, including arresting its last fugitive, Goran Hadzic, who led Croatian Serb rebels during the 1991-1995 war.

Mr Tadic said Hadzic will be arrested as soon as possible.

The plane carrying Mladic pulled into a hangar after landing in Rotterdam, out of view of reporters and television cameras.

A Dutch police helicopter stood just outside the hangar's entrance, and police vehicles also pulled up nearby.

Mladic will be taken to the UN detention unit near The Hague to undergo a formal identification process. Within a few days he will be brought before a UN judge for a preliminary hearing.