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Serbian Prosecutor Says Mladic's Arrest Would Be Dangerous

A supporter of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party kisses a picture of Ratko Mladic.
BELGRADE (Reuters) -- Any attempt to arrest war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, vital for improving ties with the European Union, will be an extremely dangerous operation, Serbia's war crimes prosecutor said.

Serbia has intensified efforts to arrest two remaining war crimes fugitives, hoping that EU foreign ministers meeting on September 15 decide to unfreeze the trade benefits of an association agreement signed in April.

"A great number of Mladic's closest security guards will not hesitate for a moment to use their weapons," prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told the "Blic" daily. "That's why his arrest will be much more difficult than in the case of [Radovan] Karadzic."

"According to the information our services have, Mladic has no intention of surrendering."

Karadzic was arrested in July after 11 years on the run. His arrest was a breakthrough in Serbia's cooperation with The Hague-based tribunal.

UN chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, who visited Serbia this week, said he was optimistic that Mladic will be arrested, but added that his capture remained the "key objective of our cooperation."

The EU is waiting for his word on whether Serbia is fully cooperating with the tribunal to allow the Balkan country to make progress toward eventual membership.

Belgrade officials fear that Mladic arrest could provoke violent protests because the former Bosnian Serb general is seen as a hero by many Serbs.

The UN tribunal in The Hague indicted both Karadzic and Mladic for genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo when 14,000 people were killed.

Serbia's point man for the cooperation with The Hague, Rasim Ljajic, told another newspaper that Mladic's fingerprints disappeared from police files which could make the hunt even more difficult.

Serbian media reported on September 12 that the other war crimes fugitive, Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic, who is charged with crimes against humanity during 1991-95 war in Croatia, is believed to be outside Serbia.