WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell suspended about $26 million in assistance to Serbia and Montenegro on Wednesday for its refusal to hand over suspects to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
The most prominent suspect still at large is former Bosnian Serb army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic. He was accused by the U.N. court of genocide in the deaths of about 7,000 men and boys in the Bosnian Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.
Mladic is among 16 suspects who have not been turned over to the tribunal and who are believed to spend most of their time in Serbia.
Powell was in Berlin, and the announcement was made by State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.
Powell "cannot certify to Congress that Serbia and Montenegro is cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and as a result, as of March 31, new assistance for Serbia will stop," Ereli said.
Serbia and Montenegro, the successor to Yugoslavia, was to receive $100 million in aid during the current fiscal year. About $43 million has already been disbursed.
Exempt from the cutoff are humanitarian assistance and funds to promote democracy in municipalities and to assist the predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo. Ereli said about $26 million is affected by the move.
The war crimes tribunal was formed in the mid-1990s in response to atrocities committed during the Balkan wars, which claimed as many as 250,000 lives.
The trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been underway at the tribunal for two years.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica considers the U.N. court anti-Serb and is refusing to cooperate. He is dependent on Milosevic's supporters, a growing political force.
In another part of the former Yugoslavia, meanwhile, gunfire sounded today as NATO troops surrounded a building in Pale, Bosnia-Herzegovina. War crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, leader of Bosnia's Serbs during the republic's ethnic war, has taken refuge in the city.
Capt. Dave Sullivan of Canada, a spokesman for the international peacekeepers, would not say whom they were seeking. He said their quarry had eluded them.