EU welcomes Karadzic transfer

The European Union on Wednesday welcomed the transfer to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, reported dpa.

The 27-member bloc "hails" the transfer as "an important step in the process of reconciliation in the Western Balkans and (in) Serbia's move towards Europe," said a statement from the French government, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The transfer is "a significant step for international justice, first of all, it is a significant step for Serbia and also for EU-Serbia relations," a spokesman for the EU's executive, the European Commission, said.

Karadzic, who was arrested in Belgrade on July 21 after almost 13 years on the run, was transferred to the Dutch-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

He is set to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995.

The trial "will contribute to bringing out the truth and will answer the duty of providing justice for the victims and their families," the French statement on behalf of the EU said.

The EU "expresses its support for ICTY for the essential and exemplary work it is doing in the service of international justice," the statement 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.

However, on Tuesday representatives of EU member states confirmed that they would not offer Belgrade closer cooperation until Karadzic had been transferred and ICTY's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, confirmed that Belgrade was fully cooperating with his organization.

"The EU calls on Serbia to carry on in the path (of reconciliation and European rapprochement) and to find and transfer to The Hague the last two fugitive indictees," the French statement stressed.

Only two men now remain on ICTY's wanted list: Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, who is thought to be in hiding in Serbia or the Serb part of Bosnia, and Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic, who is rumoured to be in Russia or Belarus.

Officials in Brussels say that Brammertz is due to visit Belgrade to discuss cooperation in August.

On Tuesday night Serb ultra-nationalists rioted in Belgrade in protest at Karadzic's extradition. Some 27 policemen and 21 civilians were injured, including two journalists. dpa bn mat sc

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