CEOL - Bosnian Serbs condemn arrest of retired general

SARAJEVO, Dec 21, 1999 -- (Reuters) Authorities in Bosnia's Serb republic on Monday condemned the arrest by NATO-led troops of retired Bosnian Serb General Stanislav Galic on a war crimes indictment.

The republic's deputy president, Mirko Sarovic of the Serb Democratic Party founded by Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, said the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) had overstepped its mandate and such arrests were not part of its mission.

SFOR has so far arrested 15 war crimes suspects. It said Galic had been arrested under a secret indictment and was being processed for immediate transfer to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The defense ministry in the republic, one of Bosnia's two constituent entities, said the arrest represented "a serious blow to efforts of the Serb republic to cooperate with the Hague tribunal".

Galic, who headed the Bosnian Serb army's Sarajevo-Romanija corps, is charged with violations of the laws and customs of war and crimes against humanity for allegedly initiating a shelling and sniping campaign against Sarajevo when his troops were besieging it in 1992-95.

After retiring in 1997, the general worked as an adviser to ousted Bosnian Serb president Nikola Poplasen.

The tribunal has now arrested three top Bosnian Serb commanders but is still seeking more than 30 other suspects including Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic. Both have been indicted twice for war crimes, including genocide, for the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre.

It was not clear whether Bosnian Serb authorities planned any further protest action.

After the arrest of General Momir Talic, the head of he Bosnian Serb army, at a conference in Vienna last August, Bosnian Serb military bodies refused for several weeks to attend meetings with SFOR and officials from the Moslem-Croat federation - Bosnia's other autonomous region.

A statement from the office of Poplasen, who was sacked earlier this year by the international peace coordinator but refused to step down, said Galic had been arrested by "occupying forces and with the help of domestic collaborators".

"The arrest was conducted as the classical terrorist attack and with the use of violence. This arrest does not have anything to do with war crimes and is directly inspired by political motives," it said.

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