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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Fugitive Karadzic sends his regrets
Radovan Karadzic, former president of the (Bosnian) Serb Republic
Karadzic says the war crimes tribunal is illegal
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic - the UN's most wanted war crimes suspect - has sent a letter offering his "regrets" for being unable to attend a criminal tribunal in The Hague.

In the letter to Kosta Cavoski, a Serbian law professor, Mr Karadzic said he would not be answering calls for his surrender.


Not only is this tribunal illegally established, but it is also a source of shame for a decent part of the West, which now backs it

"I have not had a chance to sort it out with Sylvester," said Mr Karadzic, referring to an appeal by the leader of the Nato-led Stabilisation Force (Sfor), US General John Sylvester.

"But if I had, I would express my regret for being unable to accept his appeals to turn myself in to the tribunal.

"Not only is this tribunal illegally established, but it is also a source of shame for a decent part of the West, which now backs it.

The family and friends of al-Qaeda are not threatened, which is nice, but my friends and family are threatened

"I would ask General Sylvester what kind of court it is, and first of all what kind of a prosecution it is, that first arrests people and then collects evidence.

"The family and friends of al-Qaeda are not threatened, which is nice, but my friends and family are threatened, even though I have never in any respect been an enemy of General Sylvester's homeland."

He added that "any Serb, regardless of his responsibility or guilt" could find himself before The Hague court.

Mr Cavoski is chairman of the Belgrade-based group the International Committee for the Truth about Radovan Karadzic.

Mandate

The letter, which was published in the latest issue of Belgrade's Nedeljni Telegraf, went on to accuse the Sfor and its leader of exceeding their mandate.

Mr Karadzic then warned General Sylvester not to cross paths with him.

"According to his mandate, the gentleman general could arrest me only if his soldiers happen to come across me during their everyday activities.


I have made thousands of new friends, about whom my pursuers do not know

"For more than six years I have been doing all I can to ensure that that meeting never takes place, and it would be better if General Sylvester were to do the same.

"That is because I would come out of such a meeting in one way or another. In the technical sense I would probably come out of it very badly, but in the moral sense I would definitely be the winner."

He concluded by advising the commander not to "terrorise" wanted men.

Perhaps they left us in Bosnia so that the whole of it can be ours one day

"I have made thousands of new friends, about whom my pursuers do not know," he said.

"I have more and more of them with each passing day.

"I do not have to remain in just two or three villages in the Serb Republic because Bosnia has remained a single country, so why should I deny myself the whole of Bosnia?

"Perhaps they left us in Bosnia so that the whole of it can be ours one day."

Charges

Mr Karadzic and his former army commander, Ratko Mladic, are charged with war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia based in The Hague.

Ratko Mladic and his wife, Bosiljka
Ratko Mladic, who is accused of war crimes, is believed to be in Belgrade
Both men are accused of involvement in the 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was extradited last year and is now on trial for alleged atrocities carried out during wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

The letter, allegedly sent on 17 April and signed by Mr Karadzic, was published the day after 17 war crimes indictees failed to meet a Yugoslav Government deadline to give themselves up or face arrest and extradition.

Mr Karadzic has eluded capture in spite of Nato-led raids in south-eastern Bosnia two months ago.

He is said to travel between eastern Bosnia and the republic of Montenegro. Mr Mladic is believed to be in hiding in Belgrade.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alix Kroeger in Belgrade
"It looks as though Serbia is prepared to hand over suspects to the tribunal"
See also:

17 Apr 02 | Europe
Hague's wanted men
14 Apr 02 | Europe
Top Serb suspect dies
12 Apr 02 | Media reports
Former Serbian minister's suicide note
13 Apr 02 | Europe
Hague suspects go to ground
21 Mar 02 | Europe
Del Ponte calls for snatch squad
01 Mar 02 | Europe
Karadzic slips Nato net again
01 Mar 02 | Europe
The race to catch Karadzic
28 Feb 02 | Europe
Nato's Karadzic hunt draws blank
12 Mar 02 | Europe
The Hague looms over the Balkans
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