Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 16:07 UK

New war crimes chief in Belgrade

The UN's Serge Brammertz (foreground, left) meets Serbian President Boris Tadic (opposite) in Belgrade on 17 April
Mr Brammertz (front left) met both Serbia's president (front right) and PM

The new top prosecutor at the UN's Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Serge Brammertz, has begun his first visit to Serbia since taking office in January.

He is to assess Serbia's co-operation, an issue blocking any deal between the EU and Serbia on closer ties.

Mr Brammertz pressed Serbia to pursue Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and two other ethnic Serb war crimes suspects.

He added that his office might appeal against the acquittal of former Kosovo Albanian PM Ramush Haradinaj.

My office is not satisfied with the [Haradinaj] ruling
Serge Brammertz
UN chief war crimes prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia

Mr Haradinaj, also a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was found not guilty on 3 April on 37 counts, including murder, persecution, rape and torture during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

In a statement issued after meeting Mr Brammertz, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said the acquittal had cast doubt over the legitimacy of the Hague tribunal (ICTY).

Mr Brammertz's two-day visit to Belgrade was supposed to have taken place in February and it is a measure of the tension in the region, sparked by the declaration of independence by Kosovo, that it is only taking place now, the BBC's Nick Thorpe reports.

Last four fugitives

Speaking after talks with Serbian officials who liaise with the tribunal, the chief prosecutor said he had "insisted on the search and the arrest of the four remaining fugitives".

Kosovo Albanians wait at a bus stop showing a poster of Ramush Haradinaj, in and out of uniform (3 April 2008)
Mr Haradinaj's acquittal is a major sore point for Serbs

He was referring to Gen Mladic and Mr Karadzic, both wanted for crimes in Bosnia; ex-Bosnian Serb police officer Stojan Zupljanin; and Goran Hadzic, wanted for war crimes in Croatia.

"It is crucial that they face justice as soon as possible," Mr Brammertz added.

On the Haradinaj acquittal, the UN prosecutor said: "My office is not satisfied with the ruling. My office was unable to present all evidence to the court because some witnesses failed to appear."

The judge at the acquittal had ruled that much of the evidence against the former KLA leader was either inconclusive or non-existent.

"Serbia has the right to demand that the legitimacy of the Hague court be determined," Mr Kostunica, referring to the acquittal, said after meeting Mr Brammertz.

'Killed for organs'

Mr Brammertz's visit is the first opportunity for the Serbian leadership to take a closer look at the new prosecutor, after a stormy relationship with his predecessor, Carla del Ponte, our correspondent says.

Often vilified by the Serbian press, Ms Del Ponte has become something of a local hero in recent weeks, following the publication of her book, he adds.

In it, Ms Del Ponte alleges that Kosovo Albanian fighters kidnapped and murdered Serbs during the war, and sold their organs for transplant surgery.

The tribunal has replied that no evidence was ever found for these claims. Serbia is demanding a new investigation.

Our correspondent adds that a stabilisation and association agreement between the EU and Serbia has already been initialled but can only be signed if all EU members are satisfied that full co-operation exists between Serbia and the tribunal.

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