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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Deadline elapses for war crimes suspects
Ratko Mladic (left) with Radovan Karadzic in August 1993
Top targets: Ratko Mladic (left) and Radovan Karadzic
A deadline has expired for more than 20 war crimes suspects - including Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic - to surrender to the Yugoslav authorities or face arrest.

Wanted Yugoslav suspects
Vladimir Kovacevic, Milan Zec, Milan Milutinovic, Dragoljub Ojdanic, Nikola Sainovic, Sredoje Lukic, Milan Lukic, Miroslav Radic, Milan Mrksic, Veselin Sljivancanin
Wanted non-Yugoslav suspects
Stojan Zupljanin, Ranko Cesic, Savo Todovic, Gojko Jankovic, Mitar Rasevic, Radovan Stankovic, Dragan Zelenovic, Zeljko Mejakic, Vinko Pandurevic, Momcilo Gruban, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Milan Martic

Twenty-three men indicted for war crimes by the international tribunal in The Hague were ordered by Belgrade to hand themselves over by 1000 GMT on Monday. Just three have made moves towards doing so.

Lawyers for former army commander, General Dragoljub Ojdanic, and former Croatian Serb rebel leader, Milan Martic, submitted surrender papers to the Justice Ministry just before the deadline elapsed.

Meanwhile Vladimir Kovacevic, a former army commander nicknamed "Rambo", has contacted the Belgrade Dictrict Court to indicate he too would be prepared to surrender.

Theory and practice

In theory, the remaining 20 who have failed to make contact with the authorities should now be tracked down and extradited, but the BBC's Alix Kroeger in Belgrade says the process may well be spun out.

The arrest warrants will go to the courts on Tuesday, and the extradition process once the suspects are detained will take up to nine days, with scope for at least two appeals.

Serbian President Milan Milutinovic
Serbian President Milan Milutinovic features on the list
A committee of lawyers has also lodged an appeal with the Yugoslav Constitutional Court, which could delay any extraditions for six weeks.

Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic has already announced that Serbia's police force is insufficiently equipped to track down the most wanted suspects, Mr Karadzic and Mr Mladic, both of whom are in hiding.

Earlier this year, two operations by Nato-led peacekeepers failed to net Mr Karadzic in south-eastern Bosnia.

Mr Mladic, however, is believed to be hiding in Belgrade.

The law enabling the authorities to send people accused of atrocities during the Balkan wars of the 1990s to The Hague was adopted by the Yugoslav parliament earlier this month, but the issue remains hugely controversial in Serbia, where many believe the international court is biased.

The United States has however been exerting heavy pressure on Belgrade.

Washington effectively froze $40m of aid after the Yugoslav authorities failed to meet a 31 March deadline to act against war crimes suspects.

The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"The US Government has said it wants to see the handover of all 23 suspects on the Yugoslav Government's list"
See also:

17 Apr 02 | Europe
Hague's wanted men
14 Apr 02 | Europe
Top Serb suspect dies
12 Apr 02 | Media reports
Former Serbian minister's suicide note
13 Apr 02 | Europe
Hague suspects go to ground
21 Mar 02 | Europe
Del Ponte calls for snatch squad
01 Mar 02 | Europe
Karadzic slips Nato net again
01 Mar 02 | Europe
The race to catch Karadzic
28 Feb 02 | Europe
Nato's Karadzic hunt draws blank
12 Mar 02 | Europe
The Hague looms over the Balkans
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