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PM Says Serbia Will Continue To Pursue Mladic

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) -- Serbia will continue searching for its most wanted war crimes suspect, Ratko Mladic, even if he is declared legally dead as his family has requested, the prime minister said today.

Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, has not been seen in public for years, and his family plans a legal appeal to have him declared dead.

"Our administration has made it clear that regardless of how that develops...the search will continue," Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic told a news conference during a visit to Slovenia.

The arrest of Mladic, who was indicted 15 years ago for genocide during the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, is a precondition for Serbia's progress toward European Union membership. Cvetkovic said Serbia was committed to the task.

"Ninety percent of our capacities are focused on that problem [of searching for Mladic], which is entirely technical and not political," he said.

A Serbian security official who asked not to be named said that the search for Mladic is now very difficult, since his last verified sighting was in February 2007.

"We are also backtracking all the avenues we did not explore. He is a sick man and he definitely needs money," he said. "If we find his doctors and financiers, we will nab him."

Serbia applied for European Union membership last year, but its progress is linked to Belgrade's full cooperation with the United Nations war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia and the arrest of remaining war crime fugitives.

The source said that "the hunt for Mladic is slow and tedious business....We are interviewing people, exploring all the leads, and many times we hit a dead end. We are trying to get into his head, to anticipate his moves."

Some officials involved in the search believe Mladic may be hiding in Communist-era apartment blocks in Belgrade's Novi Beograd neighborhood, much as wartime Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic did until his 2008 arrest.