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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 00:44 GMT
EU warns Croatia over talks date
Gen Ante Gotovina
Gen Ante Gotovina is accused of war crimes against ethnic Serbs
Croatia's failure to arrest a top war crimes suspect may jeopardise the country's chances of starting talks to join the EU, a top official has said.

EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said that he hoped the issue could be resolved so that talks can go ahead.

Croatia insists it is doing everything it can to find and arrest fugitive General Ante Gotovina.

The International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague wants to try Gen Gotovina for alleged crimes against ethnic Serbs.

In hiding?

"We have not managed to hand over Gen Gotovina to the Hague because he is not in the hands of the Croatian authorities," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said after talks with Mr Barroso on Tuesday.

He said that he did not think Gen Gotovina - the tribunal's third most wanted person - was in hiding in Croatia as UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte believes.

"If we get information that Gen Gotovina is in Croatia we will arrest him and extradite him to The Hague," he said, adding, "If Gotovina is somewhere in Patagonia, it is obvious that we cannot apprehend him."

The EU has already said that if Croatia fails to hand over Gen Gotovina by 17 March, accession talks due to go ahead on that date will not take place.

War crimes

Mr Barroso said that whilst he trusted the goodwill of Croatia's president, he felt that the country was still not doing enough to track down the war crimes suspect.

"So far the tribunal has not been able to say there was full co-operation," he said.

But the Croatian president cited 626 requests from The Hague, saying that the country had complied with 625 of them.

Gen Gotovina is accused of ordering the killing of 150 ethnic Serbs and the expulsion of 150,000 in 1995.

But he is also regarded as a hero by many Croats, who would strongly oppose his arrest.

The war crimes he allegedly committed against Serbs took place during and after a Croatian army offensive against rebel Serbs in the Krajina region in 1995.

EU warns Croatia about fugitive
31 Jan 05 |  Europe
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05 Oct 04 |  Europe
Serb justice under scrutiny
01 Oct 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Croatia
29 Sep 04 |  Country profiles

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