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Europe

EU Puts off Serbia Trade Decision Despite Karadzic Arrest

The European Union said it will keep a close eye on developments in Serbia following the arrest of war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. But the bloc is not going to rush to pursue trade talks with the Balkan nation.

Supporters of ex-Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic hold up pictures of him, during a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, July 28, 2008

Karadzic supporters are expected to demonstrate against his extradiction Tuesday

At a meeting in Brussels, representatives of EU member states agreed on Tuesday, July, 29, that while Karadzic's arrest on July 21 was a very important step for Serbia's new, pro-EU government to have taken, it was not enough in itself to warrant offering Belgrade a political reward.

Demonstrations planned

Police patrolling in Belgrade

Serbian police prepared for a massive rally on Tuesday

Thousands of riot police have were sent to Belgrade to prevent violence during a large pro- Karadzic rally scheduled for Tuesday night. Serbia's president has warned the right-wing extremists to remain peaceful as they protest the arrest of a war crimes suspect they consider a hero.

Pro-Western President Boris Tadic says "everyone has the right to demonstrate, but they should know that law and order will be respected."

Hardliners, who regard Karadzic as a hero and defender of Serbia, put up posters with his image around the Serbian capital and say they expect tens of thousands to demonstrate peacefully.

"This rally will be a symbol of resistance, a symbol of the strength of those who love freedom more than anything," said Aleksandar Vucic of the nationalist Radical Party, one of the strongest parties in Serbia. "We'll continue resisting dictatorship in Serbia, we'll continue raising the question of whose paramilitary forces arrested Radovan Karadzic, how and why."

The EU is keen to forge closer ties with Serbia, but it will not consider doing so until Karadzic is transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, and until the ICTY's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, certifies that Belgrade is fully cooperating with his organization, diplomats said.

The decision confirms a similar statement from EU foreign ministers, who met the day after Karadzic's arrest.

Transfer likely soon

Karadzic with glasses, long white hair and a beard

Karadzic is still in Serbia awaiting extradition to The Hague

Karadzic is currently under arrest in Belgrade. His lawyer is reportedly fighting his extradition by every means possible, including posting the appeal against extradition from a remote location in order to delay its delivery.

However, officials expect Karadzic to be transferred to the ICTY "very soon," according to the DPA news agency. Brammertz is to visit Belgrade in August, an EU diplomat said.

The EU has long said that all the states of the Western Balkans, including Serbia, should join the bloc when they are ready to do so.

But relations with Serbia have been damaged by the support of most EU member states for the breakaway province of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in February.

Twice this year, the EU has offered Serbia deals on issues such as trade and travel just before national elections, in a bid to boost pro-EU forces in the country.

Observers say that that policy has been largely successful, as Serbia now has a pro-EU president and government.

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