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Yugoslavia: U.S. Pressing For Apprehension Of War Crimes Suspects

Washington, 3 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The United States says it plans to distribute thousands of posters in the Balkans offering up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other indicted war crime suspects.

David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues, made the announcement at a Washington news conference yesterday (Thursday.) He said officials hope the campaign will help efforts to apprehend the suspects.

"Today we are taking a further step in support of the 'Rewards for Justice' program. You might call it Operation Saturation, in that we are distributing throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia this poster which identifies three of the international community's most wanted: Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, and Radko Mladic."

Milosevic was indicted last May by a tribunal in The Hague for alleged crimes against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Bosnian Serb leaders Karadzic and Mladic are being sought for their alleged role in the massacre of some 6,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995. Karadzic is also wanted under a separate indictment for crimes that occurred earlier in the Bosnian war.

Scheffer said the U.S. plans to initially distribute 10,000 copies of the posters. Some of the posters will be air dropped into Serbia.

"We are putting the sharp focus on these three indictees because it is time they should face justice for the heinous crimes for which they are charged."

Mladic is believed to be in Serbia and Karadzik in Pale, Bosnia.

U.S. officials originally announced the program last year. On Thursday, they outlined what they call the "Operation Saturation" project in the hopes it will generate publicity and lead to arrests. It is not clear how Milosevic, who has been protected by his army and police, could be arrested without his security apparatus turning against him.

Nevertheless, Scheffer said it was time for justice to catch up with these three.

"We also believe that the time has come for these individuals to move from the region to the Hague, so their influence will no longer impede the efforts of those citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia who want to advance democracy and the rule of law." It is not the first time the U.S. has offered a reward. In one case, the State Department awarded money for information that led to the capture of Ramsi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing in New York.