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Del Ponte Clears Way For Croatia-EU Talks

Carla Del Ponte (file photo) Luxembourg, 3 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte, told an EU task force today that Croatia is cooperating fully with the Hague-based court.

This clears the way for Croatia to begin EU membership talks, which EU officials say are could be launched any time now -- although probably not before early next month.

Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader appeared at a news conference together with Del Ponte and welcomed the decision.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm just coming from the meeting with members of the [EU] task force with Croatia. I've been informed that chief prosecutor Madam Del Ponte reported to the task force that Croatia is fully cooperating with the ICTY," Sanader said.

Sanader refused to speculate when entry talks with the EU will begin, saying the decision was up to EU foreign ministers, meeting today in Luxembourg. But President Stipe Mesic expressed optimism that membership talks would be reopened.

Del Ponte told reporters in Luxembourg that Croatia's government "appears to possess the political will to locate, arrest, and transfer" war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina.

Gotovina, a retired army general, was indicted by the tribunal for war crimes against ethnic Serbs at the end of the 1991-95 Serbo-Croatian war.

(RFE/RL, dpa, AP)