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Serbian War Crimes Fugitive Ratko Mladic Arrested

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Serbian President Boris Tadic has announced the arrest of longtime war-crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, the former commander of Bosnian Serb forces during the war that took place after Yugoslavia's breakup.

President Tadic said Mladic was arrested on Serbian soil and that the process of handing him over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal is under way.

Tadic said Serbia has now closed another chapter in its recent history, one that will bring the country a step closer to full reconciliation. He promised there also will be an investigation into why it took 16 years to apprehend the 69-year-old former military leader.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the arrest of Mladic as "very good news" and called it a step toward Serbia joining the European Union.

EU officials have made delivering Mladic a key condition for favorable action on Serbia's membership application.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called the capture an "important step forward for Serbia and for international justice," while NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the arrest "finally offers a chance for justice to be done."

The United States also praised the development. The White House said Washington looks forward to Mladic's quick transfer to the U.N. tribunal at The Hague.

The United Nations tribunal on war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia indicted Mladic in 1995 for atrocities he allegedly carried out or ordered during the three-year siege of the Bosnian city of Sarajevo, and for the killing of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys near the city of Srebrenica.

The massacre of civilians at Srebrenica is considered to be the worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World War. Mladic also was seen as the architect of a bloody 43-month mortar assault on Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, from 1992-96 - the longest siege in the history of modern warfare.

Mladic was one of three principal war-crimes suspects who remained at large for years following the war in Bosnia. Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was captured in 2008 in Belgrade. Still wanted is a key Croatian Serb figure, Goran Hadzic.

The chief prosecutor for the U.N. war crimes tribunal, Serge Brammertz, had criticized Serbia last week for not doing enough to capture Mladic or Hadzic.

European Union officials have made delivering Mladic a key condition for favorable action on Serbia's application to join the EU.

Article by VOA News