Serbia draws up plan to catch Mladic in renewed bid for EU membership

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The Independent Online

Serbia will present a detailed plan to the European Union this week for arresting General Ratko Mladic, wanted by the UN on genocide charges.

The Serbian President, Boris Tadic, and the Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, will meet EU and Nato officials today for three days of talks focusing on tracking down Mr Mladic, who allegedly orchestrated the massacre of 8,000 Muslims from Srebrenica, and is charged with committing other war crimes during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

The EU froze pre-membership talks with Belgrade in May, and the United States suspended aid, until Mladic was handed over to UN tribunal.

Serbia's so-called "action plan" - details of which were not immediately available - was drafted in cooperation with the UN tribunal and the EU, said Rasim Ljajic, the Serbian government official in charge of co-operation with the court at The Hague.

The plan reportedly envisages unspecified help from the US and EU in capturing Mladic, who many believe has been hiding in Serbia with the help of Serbian military officials.

A government statement said that the plan "will enable that - in partnership with the EU - all obligations toward the Hague tribunal be wrapped up."

"I hope that the plan will be accepted by the entire international community," Mr Ljajic said. "Then comes the hard part, the plan's full implementation."

Partial international isolation has dealt a major blow to Serbia's efforts at reform. It also has jeopardised the country's position at talks on the status of its separatist Kosovo province, which Serbia wants to keep within its boundaries.

Serbian officials expressed hope that the plan for capturing Mladic would help forge closer ties with Washington and Brussels, and lead to a resumption in EU negotiations before Mladic is actually arrested. But EU officials and diplomats in Brussels have insisted that there can be no negotiations until he is in jail. "We are able to restart the negotiations for Serbia's association agreement, even on the same day, if we find that Serbia is fully cooperating with the Hague court," the EU enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, has said.

"Serbia has its homework, which it must complete," a senior diplomat in Brussels said. "We also must fulfil our homework. We must be ready to resurrect the negotiations the moment Serbia fulfils its obligations."AP

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