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Serbia Seeks War Crimes Prosecutor's Nod For EU

BELGRADE (Reuters) -- The United Nations chief war crimes prosecutor has begun a two-day visit to Serbia, seen by Belgrade as a chance to show its determination to arrest remaining war crimes fugitives and unblock its path to the EU.

The visit comes one month before Serge Brammertz will report to the UN Security Council on Serbia's cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague. His report will be closely watched by the European Union member states, who will decide whether to unfreeze trade benefits for Serbia.

Serbia's war crime prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, said he will present Brammertz information on all concrete steps the government has undertaken to capture Bosnian Serb fugitive General Ratko Mladic and Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic.

"He [Brammertz] knows that the capture of the two fugitives is our primary goal and that the future of Serbia depends on that," Vukcevic, who also heads a government team for the arrest of war crimes fugitives, told the "Vecernje novosti" daily last week.

"I expect his understanding."

Last week, the police searched a window factory in central Serbia looking for information that could lead to Mladic and his support network. It was a part of wider action to examine companies suspected of providing financial support to Mladic.

The coalition of pro-Western Democrats with the Socialists of late autocrat Slobodan Milosevic says EU membership is their top priority. It must attract investment to revive the economy and deliver on generous welfare promises.

But in Serbia where two-thirds of the population favors EU membership, there is not much popular support for government efforts to arrest war crimes fugitives.

The latest poll conducted in late October by the Center for Democracy and Free Elections showed that only 1 percent of people in Serbia think their government's priority should be cooperation with The Hague tribunal.