Serbian official quits over failure to get Mladic

AP News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2009 8:57 AM

A Serbian official in charge of capturing war criminals resigned Tuesday because his team has failed to arrest Ratko Mladic, who allegedly orchestrated the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslims in Bosnia.

Rasim Ljajic submitted his resignation letter to Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, who is expected to formally accept it.

Ljajic had pledged earlier this year to quit if Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander, is not captured by the end of 2009, and Ljajic apparently concluded there is little chance of that happening by Thursday.

"I am informing you that I am resigning the post for well-known reasons," Ljajic said in the letter.

Mladic has been at large since he was indicted in 1995 by the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. He had lived freely in Serbia under protection from the nationalists before going into hiding a few years ago.

Serbia's pro-Western government officials have insisted that they don't know where Mladic is hiding and that they are doing all they can to find him.

Earlier this month, Serge Brammertz, the chief U.N. prosecutor for former Yugoslavia, praised Serbia's efforts to capture Mladic in a report to the U.N. Security Council. This freed up Serbia's efforts to begin the process of one day joining the European Union.

Mladic's arrest remains crucial for further progress in the EU accession process.

In his resignation letter, Ljajic said his team has been doing a good job, even though Mladic remains at large.

"The past year has been the most successful so far," the letter said. "We have never worked so hard ... and I am certain that such an effort must have results."

Ljajic is one of two officials heading the so-called Action Team which was set up in 2006. The other official, war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic, remains in his job.

Ljajic will remain the Social Affairs Minister in the Serbian government and stay at the helm of a government commission for cooperation with The Hague tribunal.

The Srebrenica massacre in July 1995 is considered to be the worst carnage in Europe since World War II. Mladic's troops overrun the eastern Bosnian town and executed almost all its men and boys in just several days.

Also at large is the former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic who is wanted for atrocities stemming from Croatia's 1991-95 war.