US, UK, France 'shielded Karadzic'

Belgrade - Former United States and French presidents Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac "personally" blocked plans to arrest the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, wanted for a genocide trial about the past 13 years, a former official of the United Nations war crimes tribunal said in an interview published on Sunday.

Florence Hartmann, a former spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said in an interview with the daily Blic: "Sometimes the arrest was blocked personally by Chirac, another time it was Clinton."

Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July, after 13 years on the run.

The tribunal accused him in 1995 of genocide and raised other charges about his role in atrocities such as the massacre of 8 000 Muslims in Srebrenica during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The former president of the Serb entity in Bosnia, Karadzic claims that he made a deal with the former US envoy, Richard Holbrooke, to withdraw from politics and fade away and so avoid arrest and trial.

During his run from justice, the tribunal had "abundant" information which could have led to Karadzic's arrest, Hartmann claimed. In her words, apart from France and the US, Britain also blocked the arrest.

She speculated that Karadzic was finally arrested because the US realised that out of a courtroom he was an obstacle to the region's future.

Also, Serbia needs to bring all war crime fugitives to justice to clear the key hurdle blocking its path to European Union membership.

After the Karadzic arrest, only the Bosnian Serb wartime military chief, Ratko Mladic, and the Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic remain on the loose. - Sapa-DPA

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