Russia and the US accused of secret deal to protect Karadzic

By John Lichfield in Paris

Published: 08 September 2007

Russia and America have systematically blocked for the past decade the
arrest of the Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is wanted for
genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal, according to a book by a
former UN official to be published next week.

Florence Hartmann, the former spokeswoman for the chief prosecutor at
the UN court in
The Hague, says that successive Russian and American
administrations, with British and French connivance, have obstructed
all efforts to arrest and try Karadzic, the former president of the
breakaway Bosnian-Serb republic.

On one occasion in 1997, Mme Hartmann says, a Russian aircraft flew
Karadzic to
Belarus where he hid for several months. On another
occasion in May 1997, President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair persuaded
the former French president Jacques Chirac that
Russia should be
informed before Karadzic could be arrested. M. Chirac protested that
the then Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, would immediately tip off
the wanted man. The French president was persuaded to give way.

More recently, in 2004, she says, American forces tipped off Karadzic
that he was about to be arrested by the new democratic government in

Karadzic has been indicted on two counts of genocide for the mass
slaughter of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. He is still on the run and
believed to be living in either
Bosnia or Montenegro.

In her book, Paix et Châtiment (Peace and Punishment), to be published
next week, Mme Hartmann, a former French journalist, draws on her
experiences as chief spokesperson until last year for Carla Del Ponte,
the Swiss-born chief prosecutor at The Hague. She says Ms Del Ponte
was told by President Chirac that the
US blocked the arrest of
Karadzic as part of a secret agreement made at the Balkan peace talks
Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.

She also speculates that Western governments may have preferred to see
Karadzic remain free rather than risk revelations in
The Hague about
the passivity of UN forces during the massacres of Bosnian Muslims.

In extracts from her book, published this week in the French newspaper
Le Monde, Mme Hartmann recalls a meeting between Messrs Clinton,
Blair, Chirac and the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl at the
Elysée Palace in Paris in May 1997.

President Chirac still wanted revenge for thecapture of two French
pilots who were shot down and held hostage by Bosnian Serb forces in
1995. He wanted the West to act immediately on information about
Karadzic's latest hiding place.

"Bill Clinton stressed that the operation could not be undertaken
without informing the Russians. Chirac was opposed because
Moscow had
firmly opposed the arrest of Karadzic and would have immediately
tipped him off," Mme Hartmann said. "
Clinton insisted, supported by
Blair. Chirac ended up by conceding the issue."

Later, she says, President Chirac told Carla Del Ponte that Karadzic
could not be arrested because of Russian opposition. She quotes M.
Chirac as telling the prosecutor: "Boris Yeltsin told me: 'Karadzic
knows too much about [Slobodan] Milosevic [who was Yugoslav President
at the time]'.

"He warned me he would send a plane to get him out of
Bosnia if
necessary, but he would never permit the arrest of Karadzic."