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Serbia denies reports of Mladic arrest

[JURIST] The Serbian government on Tuesday denied earlier reports that Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic [ICTY case backgrounder; BBC profile] had been arrested [JURIST report] and would be turned over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. Srdjan Djuric, the head of the government's Office of Media Relations, said that the reports were false [press release], calling the news a "manipulation that harms as well as hinders the Serbian government's efforts to bring the cooperation with the Hague tribunal to a close." Independent broadcaster B92, however, is continuing to report that Mladic has been arrested [B92 report] and is awaiting transfer to the ICTY, despite Djuric's denial.

Mladic, a former general, has been indicted [text] by the ICTY on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes stemming from the execution of over 7,000 Muslim prisoners and the shelling and sniping of innocent civilians during the siege of Sarajevo. Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder] are considered to be the two top fugitives wanted by the war crimes court. ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte has repeatedly called on the European Union to make Serbia's possible membership in the union contingent on the country's cooperation with the ICTY in locating Mladic. Serb officials met with EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn on Tuesday and part of the discussions focused on Serbian cooperation with the ICTY [press release]. Rehn is scheduled to deliver a report on Serbia's cooperation to the EU at the end of the month. Reuters has more.

7:02 PM ET - A spokeswoman for the ICTY prosecutor has also officially denied reports that Mladic has been arrested. Florence Hartmann said that del Ponte's office was not even aware that there was an ongoing operation to find Mladic and called reports that Mladic had been captured "media hype." AFP has more.

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