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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 October 2005, 02:12 GMT 03:12 UK
Vote triggers Mladic speculation
Zoran Stankovic
Mr Stankovic did the autopsy when Gen Mladic's daughter killed herself
A retired general with links to war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic has been appointed the new defence minister for Serbia and Montenegro.

Zoran Stankovic, 50, a former head of Belgrade military hospital, was voted in by parliament with a large majority.

He replaces Prvoslav Davinic, who resigned amid claims he misused funds.

Mr Stankovic's appointment has prompted media speculation he may negotiate Gen Mladic's surrender. He met the top UN war crimes prosecutor last month.

Mr Stankovic, a pathologist, says he developed a "special relationship" with Gen Mladic after carrying out an autopsy on his daughter when she killed herself in 1994.

However, he said he had not seen the former Bosnian Serb army commander for six years and did not know his current whereabouts.

'Not realistic'

Speaking to Belgrade TV channel B92 shortly after his appointment, Mr Stankovic said he would ensure Serbia's security forces kept up their hunt for Gen Mladic.

But, he added: "It is not realistic to think that a defence minister will run after Mladic through the mountains."

He said he had met prosecutor Carla del Ponte to hear what the UN war crimes tribunal wanted from the army.

Several officers are on trial in the Hague over crimes allegedly committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Gen Mladic, on the run since 1995, is accused of orchestrating the killing of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica - the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II.

Ms del Ponte has urged the Serbian authorities to arrest him by mid-December to face charges of genocide.

The tribunal believes Gen Mladic is being hidden within Serbia's borders by hardliners in the military.

Mr Stankovic was the choice of Serbia for the post of defence minister for Serbia and Montenegro. The union retains a common army and council of ministers.

Mr Davinic resigned after he was accused of ordering more than double the amount of military equipment needed in a $300m (164m) private deal.

Serbian agents 'helping Mladic'
05 Apr 05 |  Europe
Timeline: After Milosevic
27 Feb 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Serbia and Montenegro
09 Jan 05 |  Country profiles

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