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Arrest of Mladic cited in Serbia’s plea for EU membership

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president Boris Tadic said Monday it’s time the European Union did its part by boosting his nation’s efforts to join the bloc, arguing the arrest of war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic proves it is serious about rejoining the international fold.

Tadic also rejected speculation that authorities had known of Mladic’s hiding place, but delayed his arrest to coincide with a visit by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The rumors have persisted because Mladic was found living not far from the capital, Belgrade, with relatives who share his last name.

“Any such comment makes no sense,” Tadic said. “The truth is that we arrested Ratko Mladic the moment we discovered him.”

Europe’s most wanted war crimes fugitive Mladic was arrested on Thursday in a village north of Belgrade after 16 years on the run. He is charged by a U.N. war crimes court for atrocities committed by his troops during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

But Tadic said he wants the international community to recognize what Serbia has done and act on its membership hopes. He also pledged to implement key reforms necessary for membership.

“I simply ask the EU to fulfill its part,” he said. “We fulfilled our part and we will continue to do so.”

The EU has repeatedly said that Serbia could win pre-membership talks only on the condition it arrested the wartime Bosnian Serb commander. Some EU nations have already said Serbia needs to do more, including arresting its last fugitive, Goran Hadzic, who led Croatian Serb rebels during the 1991-95 war.

Serbia, once considered a pariah nation because of its late President Slobodan Milosevic’s warmongering policies and for harboring war crimes suspects, now expects pre-candidacy status by the end of the year.

It’s time to recognize the country has moved on, he said.

There are no obstacles left,” he said. “Stopping Serbia would be purely political.”

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