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Europe

Steinmeier Urges Serbs to Bring Mladic to Justice

At a meeting in Belgrade, Germany's foreign minister strongly urged Serbia to deliver war criminals to a UN tribunal; he also discussed sensitive territory issues regarding Kosovo and Montenegro.

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Steinmeier with Serbian President Boris Tadic

Just days after the EU delivered a final warning to Serbia on its failure to deliver top war-crimes suspects to the United Nations international court in The Hague, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Serbian leaders in Belgrade.

At the meeting, he urged Belgrade to do "everything possible" to hunt down and hand over top war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, sought by the UN tribunal.

Ein Mann blickt am 20.1.2001 auf neue Fahndungsplakate der als Kriegsverbrecher angeklagten bosnischen Serben Radovan Karadzic und General Ratko Mladic in Sarajevo

Wanted posters, like this one put up in 2001, have long hung in Serbia-Montenegro

"Germany strongly supports European perspectives for the western Balkans, and especially for Serbia," he told the AP news service after talks with his Belgrade counterpart, Vuk Draskovic.

Serbia's relationship with the European Union has taken a battering over Serbia's failure to hand over wanted war criminals to the court in The Hague.

Fi n al EU deadli n e

Since November, Serbia has been in negotiations with the EU over a stabilization and association agreement, seen as a first step towards EU membership. On Monday, the EU gave Serbia a final deadline to cooperate with the United Nations war crimes tribunal or jeopardize its negotiations with the EU, which are due to recommence on April 4.

A decade after the war in Bosnia, the conflict's most wanted men -- Mladic and Radovan Karadzic -- are still on the run. The Bosnian-Serb Mladic is believed to be hiding in Serbia. Before leaving for Belgrade, Steinmeier had reiterated the relationship between the hunt for war fugitives and Serbia's relationship with the EU.

Ratko Mladic und Radovan Karadzic

An undated photo of one-time Serb leader Karadzic, left and his military commander Mladic

"The connection is clear, so clear that there is no need to formulate an ultimatum," Steinmeier said. "And it is just as clear that the EU negotiations won't be interrupted if there is co-operation from the Serbian side."

Also up for discussion are territorial disputes involving Serbia. The Serbian province of Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999. Kosovo's ethnic Albanians are demanding full independence from Serbia, a proposition that the government in Belgrade doesn't agree with.

Outrage over Ceku n omi n atio n

The Kosovo issue has been greatly inflamed by the nomination on Thursday of former guerrilla leader Agim Ceku to replace Kosovo's prime minister, who stepped down Wednesday.

Ceku is wanted by Serbia on war crimes charges; Belgrade says he is responsible for the death of 669 Serbs. His election was heartily blasted by shocked Serbian officials, who warned "the extremists are advancing," and called the vote "another provocation."

The general was known as a war horse in the struggle against the Serbian military and paramilitary, during the civil warns of the 1990s.

There is also the question of Montenegro, the smaller of the two former Yugoslav republics. Montenegro and Serbia are joined in a union – but the pro-independence government in Montenegro wants out. The EU has a mediating role in Montenegro, and the parliament there on Wednesday adopted a law that paves the way for a referendum in May on the independence proposition.

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