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Burns In The Balkans

On a recent trip to the Balkans, U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns called on the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Croatia to arrest the three most prominent Balkans indicted for war crimes who are still at large.

Two of the most notorious fugitives are Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. A former general, Ratko Mladic has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague for his alleged involvement in killing nearly eight-thousand Muslim men and boys near the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, the worst slaughter of civilians in Europe since the Second World War. Former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic is considered the architect of the Bosnian-Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims during the Bosnian war.

The third of the most-wanted persons indicted for war crimes is Croatian General Ante Gotovina. He is accused of arranging the killing of at least one-hundred-fifty Serb civilians and the expulsion of one-hundred fifty-thousand others following a Croatian government campaign in 1995 to recapture territory held by rebels. There could be repercussions if the remaining war criminals are not arrested soon.

The United States, said Under Secretary of State Burns, is not going to support Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia and Montenegro for membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace until these countries meet their obligations to cooperate fully with the international tribunal. Likewise, Croatia will not become a member of NATO until Ante Gotovina has been sent to The Hague.

The U.S. resumed aid to Serbia in June after the Serbian authorities facilitated the surrender during the first six months of the year of a number of persons indicted for war crimes. That aid, said Mr. Burns, could again be suspended. "It's a lack of political will on the part of the Belgrade authorities," he said. "It does not stand to reason that these [persons indicted for war crimes] cannot be found."

The U.S., said Under Secretary of State Burns, "believes that [it] cannot afford to forget the massacres of the Balkan wars, and that those people responsible for those massacres should end up on trial for war crimes. We will not compromise on this judgment," said Mr. Burns.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.