Serbian President Eager to Find Mladic

The Associated Press
Friday, September 8, 2006; 4:55 AM

WASHINGTON -- Serbian President Boris Tadic is attempting to overcome the stigma of "the Milosevic experience" by joining international peacekeeping operations and trying to hasten the healing process in the violence-prone Balkan region.

In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Tadic said one of his biggest frustrations is to convince Americans and Europeans that he is genuinely eager to track down former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic for delivery to the war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands.

"This is really tough for me to explain. This is in our own interest. I'm expecting understanding and support regarding this technical issue of how to capture this man and send him to The Hague," Tadic said.

He spoke to a reporter in his hotel suite after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser Stephen Hadley and congressional leaders. He also delivered a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was to meet Friday with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Mladic, a fugitive from Bosnia's 1992-95 war, was indicted by The Hague court for laying siege to Sarajevo and for allegedly masterminding the massacre of thousands of men and boys in 1995 in Srebrenica.

Successive American administrations have maintained that Mladic is hiding out in Serbia, but Tadic said there is no proof of that, nor is it clear whether the general is even alive.

He agreed with the proposition that it was unfair for the United States and other countries to link their relations with Serbia to the capture of a single individual.

"This is our reality. This is one of the legacies of the Milosevic experience," he said.

Former President Slobodan Milosevic guided his country through devastating wars during the 1990s before he was ousted from power and taken before The Hague court.

He died in March, four years after his war crimes trial began.

The Kosovo war took place during Milosevic's last full year in office. NATO aerial bombings helped stop the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by Milosevic's army.

The province has been under U.N. administration since then, and U.N.-led talks are under way in Vienna, Austria, to decide the Serbian province's future status. Tadic said the talks are not going well from Belgrade's viewpoint.

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