New warrants for Serb war leaders

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The UN war crimes tribunal yesterday issued international arrest warrants for the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and army chief General Ratko Mladic. The warrants authorise their arrest if they cross any international border. The tribunal also rebuked the rump Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb mini-state, for failing to arrest the two men, who are among 72 people indicted for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

The tribunal also invited the prosecution to lay additional genocide charges against the two and emphasised their personal, individual responsibility for genocide and other crimes in addition to their command responsibility.

The warrants will be sent immediately to Interpol and all UN member states, a spokesman for the tribunal in The Hague said. Warrants issued previously meant that other countries were able to arrest Mr Karadzic and Gen Mladic if they appeared on their territory; yesterday's warrants oblige them to do so.

"There is a significant difference," the spokesman said. "It publicly brands the accused international fugitives, which they have not been before, and brands the state in which they shelter an open-air prison. It also makes them vulnerable to any political changes in the country of refuge." Even if the Republika Srpska shelters the fugitives temporarily, any new government could change its mind.

Senior military sources said that if, as expected, a Nato-led peace force remains in Bosnia after the present mandate expires on 20 December, it will be a military force designed for combat and not purely to assist in reconstruction.

"If the decision is that a military underpinning is required then we're talking about fighting - not just engineers to build bridges, medical and so on," the sources said.

Major General Mike Jackson, who has commanded the British-led Multinational Division South-West for the past six months, was optimistic about the prospects for building peace in Bosnia.

"There has been criticism that progress in the non-military areas has been minuscule," he said. "I don't buy that. There is quite a lot of freedom of movement." Seven thousand vehicles crossed between the Serb and Muslim/Croat areas daily, he said. "Some economic rehabilitation is under way. The roads are starting to be reopened."

He said the first six months of the mission had been remarkably successful, most notably the resettlement of the large area known as the "anvil" handed back to the Bosnian Serbs. Early in February, 45 days after the implementation of the Dayton accords, there were no people in the "anvil" apart from British soldiers. Now there are 35,000. Maj-Gen Jackson said that following fulfilment of the tasks given to it by the Dayton accords, it was inevitable the mission would broaden. "I do not buy the phrase 'mission creep'," he said. "I think that's somewhat naive. The mission was bound to broaden."

He also cited evidence of reconciliation between the former warring factions, but said it would inevitably take time. "It is less than one year ago that the factions were tearing each other apart on the battlefield. It took perhaps seven or eight years for the western Allies and the Germans to get reconciled after the Second world war. We've had peace in Bosnia for seven or eight months."

The British division is now based in Banja Luka, in Bosnian Serb territory. Whereas Pale is still a stronghold for Serb extremists, and the refuge of Mr Karadzic and Gen Mladic, Banja Luka is the centre for more moderate Serbs. Some of them support the restoration of a multi-ethnic Bosnia rather than two clearly separate entities, which most Serbs would prefer.

Banja Luka airport is used by military and diplomatic flights but it is almost ready to reopen for commercial traffic. When the airfield is ready, I-For will hand it over to the civilian authorities, but that will require agreement between the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska.