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Serbia to deliver Mladic this month -Del Ponte aide

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THE HAGUE, Apr 6 (Reuters) Serbia has assured UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte that it will deliver former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic to The Hague tribunal by the end of the month, Del Ponte's spokesman said today.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told Del Ponte during a visit to Belgrade last week that the former Bosnian Serb military commander indicted for genocide would be in The Hague this month, her acting spokesman Anton Nikiforov said.

''We received clear assurances from Kostunica for the delivery of Ratko Mladic by the end of April,'' he told journalists in The Hague, adding that Belgrade had also made the same assurance to EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

The European Union told Serbia and Montenegro yesterday that a new round of talks on closer ties depended on Belgrade's arrest of Mladic and his handover to the U.N. war crimes court.

Belgrade has said it is doing all it can to deliver Mladic, indicted twice for genocide in the 1992-95 Bosnia war. There is constant speculation in local media that he is considering surrender, or ready to die to avoid arrest.

''You can see there were some things happening in Belgrade but we have no concrete information as to what is being done,'' Nikiforov said, without disclosing further details. ''We would like them to work in quiet.'' The EU agreed last October to open talks with Belgrade on closer ties, rewarding Serbia for delivering a dozen lesser war crimes fugitives to the Hague in several months.

Mladic is top of the wanted list at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Del Ponte says he is hiding in Serbia with the protection of army and intelligence service renegades.

Mladic commanded Bosnian Serb forces in the 1992-95 Bosnia war and is accused of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims and the long siege of Sarajevo which claimed over 10,000 civilian lives.

REUTERS OM PC1805

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