DECEMBER 10 2007 18:40h
Mladic and Karadzic are both charged by the tribunal with the genocide of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
In a bitter farewell to the United Nations, Yugoslavia war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte accused Serbia on Monday of deliberately failing to arrest the two top suspects.
Saying she was leaving the job disappointed, Del Ponte urged the European Union to make the arrest and handover of Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic a condition for Serbia's accession to the bloc.
She told the U.N. Security Council her optimism that Mladic and his political boss Radovan Karadzic would soon be in custody of the Hague-based U.N. tribunal for former Yugoslavia, had "waned considerably" over the past six months.
Serbia's U.N. envoy told the council his country wanted to cooperate with the tribunal and he believed Mladic, Karadzic and two other indictees still at large would be caught "in the nearest future".
Mladic and Karadzic are charged by the tribunal with the genocide of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-95 Bosnia war that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, including killing 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.
The fact that they were still free "undermines the very idea of international justice," the prosecutor said.
The feisty, outspoken Del Ponte, who visited Belgrade 20 times during an eight-year tenure as prosecutor ending on Dec. 31, charged said Serbia could have arrested the two if it wanted but had repeatedly failed to act.
Although only four of the 161 people initially indicted by the tribunal remain at large, Del Ponte said she was leaving "with a feeling of disappointment ... because of commitments that were not honored".
Serbian authorities "chose not to arrest" Mladic in early 2006 although they "knew his exact whereabouts", while Karadzic was known to have spent time in Belgrade, using his own name, as recently as 2004, she said.
Del Ponte told Reuters in an interview last week she believed the Western-tolerated drive toward independence by Serbia's Kosovo province was preventing the arrest of Mladic.
On Monday she said that despite Serbia's promises to cooperate with her, "there is no clear road map, no clear plan in the search for fugitives, no serious leads and no sign that serious efforts have been taken to arrest the fugitives."
Serbia's two main security services did not cooperate properly, their leadership was defective and authorities had been known to refuse to search the residence of a fugitive's relative "out of concern for political repercussions".
Del Ponte called on the EU's member states and executive Commission to insist on Serbia's full cooperation with the tribunal, which meant the arrest and transfer of Mladic, "as a condition in the EU pre-accession and accession process".
In a low-key response, Serbian Ambassador Pavle Jevremovic expressed appreciation for Del Ponte's "commitment and determination" and said Belgrade aimed to successfully complete cooperation with the Hague court.
"I believe that the four remaining fugitives ... will be located and apprehended in the nearest future," he said.
Next year, Belgian Serge Brammertz will take over the prosecutor's job from Del Ponte, who will become Swiss ambassador to Argentina.