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Karadzic Signs Statement Relinguishing Political Functions

Belgrade, July 19 (RFE/RL) - U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke says Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic signed a statement last night effectively ending his political career by removing himself from all political and public posts.

Holbrooke made the announcement in a live interview on CNN today following ten hours of of what he described as "tough" talks in Belgrade with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb representatives. The statement, composed in Belgrade, was faxed to Karadzic in Pale who signed it and sent the original by courier back to Belgrade.

Karadzic effective today gives up the presidency of the Bosnian Serb republic (Republika Srpska) and all related powers. Karadzic also agreed to withdraw immediately and permanently from all political activities, including the leadership of the Bosnian Serb's main political party, the Serbian Democratic Party.

Karadzic agreed not to appear on television, radio or any other media or make public appearances.

Holbrooke says if the statement is implemented, the Serbian Democratic Party will be allowed to participate in September 14 Bosnia-wide elections. He told CNN that Karadzic's departure from political and public life will be a big step toward successful elections, but he warns there are no guarantees.

Indicted war criminal and Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic is not included in the agreement.

But Holbrooke says the extradition of Mladic and Karadzic to stand trial at the war crimes tribunal in the Hague remains important and will continue to be sought.

A NATO official in Brussels welcomed the statement as "good news." The official, who asked not to be named, said, in his words: "This act is only a step on the road which must ultimately lead to Radovan Karadzic's apppearance before the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague." He also said that NATO must stay vigilant to assure that Karadzic will be what the NATO official termed an "invisible man" and not a behind-the-scenes manipulator.