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Former Serbian Minister Arrested in Montenegro

Vlastimir Djordjevic was a police commander during the Kosovo conflict (epa) June 17, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Authorities in Montenegro have arrested a former Serbian government official and police commander wanted in The Hague for murder and persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Vlastimir Djordjevic, Serbia's assistant interior minister and chief of public security from 1997 to 2001, was arrested today by Montenegro police and will be transferred for trial to the war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia.

Joint Operation

Djordjevic's arrest "was carried out in cooperation between the office of the prosecutor, Montenegrin authorities, and Serbia and it is a sign of the good cooperation we established on a regional level," Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal spokesman Anton Nikiforov told AP. "We want to praise Montenegrin police and Serb authorities for another successful operation."

A bearded Djordjevic had reportedly been posing as a construction worker for the past few months.

Montenegrin police confirmed that Djordjevic was arrested in the resort town of Budva on Montenegro's Adriatic coast, the news agency reported.

Djordjevic, a former police commander and close aide of late ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, was reportedly hiding under a false identity.

AFP cited Serbia's Beta news agency as reporting that a bearded Djordjevic had been posing as a construction worker for the past few months.

It is the second recent arrest of a war-crimes suspect from the Balkan wars and highlights signs of increased cooperation by the new government in Belgrade.

Zdravko Tolimir, a former Bosnian-Serb general, was arrested on June 1, prompting the European Union to reopen talks on possible EU membership for Serbia.

"One after another, the men on the run in the Balkans are being arrested by the authorities in the member states of the Council of Europe," Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis said in a statement today. "They can't hide forever -- time is running out for all of them."

Former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic military commander General Ratko Mladic are among the four suspects who remain on the run.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte, had recently claimed that Djordevic was hiding in Russia.

Del Ponte is expected to report before the UN Security Council on June 18 on Belgrade's cooperation with the ICTY.

Wanted Man

Djordjevic was accused along with six other Serb officials of planning and instigating crimes in the Serbian province of Kosovo in the first half of 1999. His alleged crimes listed in his indictment include the forced deportation of 800,000 Kosovars, and the killings of hundreds of ethnic Albanians.

It is believed that Djordjevic fled to Russia in 2001 after the discovery of mass graves containing Kosovo Albanians.

Belgrade also suspects Djordjevic of ordering the killing of three ethnic-Albanian U.S. citizens who disappeared in mid-1999. The bodies of Argon, Mehmet, and Ilaj Bytyqi were found in a mass grave in 2001.

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