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Mladic Won't Stay At Large Much Longer: Official

Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic
BELGRADE (Reuters) -- Bosnian Serb fugitive war time general Ratko Mladic will not stay at large for much longer because the Serbian authorities have stepped up efforts to capture him, a top government official said on July 27.

The arrest of Mladic, indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims, is a key condition for Serbia's progress towards membership of the European Union.

Serbia also needs to arrest and hand over to the court Goran Hadzic, the political leader of Serbs in Croatia.

"It is impossible that he gets away from many domestic and foreign intelligence officers," said Rasim Ljajic, Serbia's point man for cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Speaking to B92 television, Ljajic said the latest hunt for Mladic was conducted last week and that Serbia was cooperating closely with intelligence services from the region, mainly to exchange information.

"The war time commander of the Bosnian Serb Republic has been hiding for 14 years," Ljajic said. "No one in Serbia expects Ratko Mladic to surrender any more."

Mladic, the commander of Bosnian Serb forces in the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, was charged with genocide in 1995 for his role in Srebrenica and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Serbia had hoped last year's arrest of Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic would boost its EU case. The 27-nation bloc and the Netherlands in particular however had said Mladic also had to be arrested.

"It seems to me it would be easier for us to locate Mladic than convince the Netherlands to change their stand," Ljajic said.

He added that Serbia's efforts to lobby for its case and convince the Dutch to stop keeping it from advancing towards the European Union was as "if talking to a wall."

The country has intensified its efforts to arrest Mladic last year, investigating his financial support network and inspecting possible hide outs.

Earlier this month, the EU decided to grant visa-free travel to the citizens of Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia, and told Belgrade to improve border controls and boost the fight against corruption and organized crime before the EU lifted visas.