NATO hailed Serbia's arrest of indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic on Thursday, saying he was implicated in some of the worst massacres in modern European history.
"Almost 16 years since his indictment for genocide and other war crimes, his arrest finally offers a chance for justice to be done," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
"Gen. Mladic played a key role in some of the darkest episodes of Balkan and European history, including the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of Bosnian men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995," he said in a statement.
About 100,000 people died in the 1992-95 war between Bosnia's three ethnic communities.
Nearly 60,000 NATO troops, including more than 20,000 Americans, were deployed to there after the 1995 Dayton peace agreement to enforce the U.S.-sponsored accord which ended the war. They have since been withdrawn and replaced by a much smaller European Union force.
The NATO deployment, which immediately stopped the fighting, provided a much-needed boost for the alliance at a time when many were questioning its continued relevance in the post-Cold War world.
But NATO troops were criticized for allegedly not going after top war crimes suspects such as Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic _ who is currently standing trial in The Hague.
And President Bill Clinton _ who ordered the deployment _ was attacked by Republican critics who accused him of lying to Congress about the mission's duration and of trapping the United States in the Balkan crisis.
In 1999, NATO warplanes bombed Serbia for two-and-a-half months to end a crackdown by Slobodan Milosevic's troops against the Albanian minority in Kosovo province.
Kosovo has since declared independence from Serbia. NATO still retains a small residual military presence there.
"NATO has been a guarantor of security in the Balkans for the best part of two decades and today we have seen an important step towards a Europe that is whole, free and at peace," Fogh Rasmussen said. "We remain committed to assisting the whole region."