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Bosnia: War Crimes Issue Divides British Foreign Secretary, Serb Leader

Sarajevo; 29 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- British foreign secretary Robin Cook warned a Bosnian Serb leader today that the international community will not drop demands for the prosecution of suspected war criminals. Cook said aid to the Bosnian Serb entity will be linked to its full compliance with the Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian war.

Cook met the Serb member of Bosnia's collective presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, in a Sarajevo suburb. Cook told reporters afterwards that he had a very frank exchange with Krajisnik on the issue of extraditing indicted war crimes suspects.

Krajisnik said that calls for extraditing war crimes suspects were counter-productive and dangerous. Tensions in the Bosnian Serb entity have risen since British troops killed a Bosnian Serb war crimes supect and arrested another July 10.

Cook later met the Croat and Muslim members of the presidency, Kresimir Zubac and Alija Izetbegovic, in Sarajevo. Izetbegovic invited Cook to send a diplomat to join an official probe into British charges of corruption involving aid money.

Meanwhile, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal at The Hague said today that Bosnian Serb genocide suspect Milan Kovacevic will appear in court tomorrow to enter a plea.

Kovacevic's lawyer, Igor Pantelic, has said his client will plead not guilty to all charges and challenge the legality of his arrest.

Kovacevic was seized earlier this month by British troops in the NATO-led stabilization force (SFOR) for Bosnia. The tribunal had issued a secret indictment alleging he participated in eliminating the non-Serb population in the northwest Bosnian town of Prijedor. Another Bosnian Serb was killed the same day after firing at British troops sent to apprehend him. The SFOR actions were angrily condemned by Bosnian Serb leaders and sparked attacks on international workers.

There have been reports that Kovacevic is in poor health and Serbian doctors sent to examine him said he had suffered heart problems. Tribunal officials have not made detailed comments on his condition.