Belgrade Fears Pro-Karadzic Violence

BELGRADE, Serbia -- Thousands of riot police were deployed in Belgrade on Tuesday to prevent violence during a large pro-Radovan Karadzic rally, and Serbia's president warned the right-wing extremists to remain peaceful as they protest the arrest of a war-crimes suspect they consider a hero.

"Everyone has the right to demonstrate, but they should know that law and order will be respected," said pro-Western President Boris Tadic.

It remained unclear whether the lawyer for Karadzic, the ex-Bosnian Serb leader, had filed an appeal against his extradition to the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands.

Karadzic's lawyer claimed that he sent the appeal to the court by registered mail on Friday, before the midnight deadline that day. But the postal service said it doesn't have it and Ivana Ramic, the court spokeswoman, said the court doesn't either.

Under Serbian law, if the appeal is not filed, or if it is sent by mail but doesn't arrive at the Belgrade court, the court's investigative judge can rule to extradite Karadzic to The Hague tribunal in the Netherlands without considering his objection.

The rally organizer -- the right-wing Serbian Radical Party -- said it is busing in Karadzic supporters from all over Serbia and Bosnia, where Karadzic is still revered as a wartime hero for helping to create the Bosnian Serb mini-state.

Radical Party leader Aleksandar Vucic said, "The protest is against the treacherous and dictatorial regime" of Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic, which arrested Karadzic last week after nearly 13 years on the run.

Tadic has received death threats from the radicals following Karadzic's arrest.

Karadzic faces 11 charges at the UN tribunal, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide.

Meanwhile, the European Union on Tuesday kept up pressure on Serbia to do more to resolve war crimes by again delaying a decision on unfreezing trade benefits despite the arrest of Karadzic.

After his arrest, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn urged the bloc to grant improved trade conditions to Serbia, which hopes to join the EU one day.

But diplomats said ambassadors from the 27 EU states agreed to wait for Karadzic's transfer to the Hague war crimes tribunal and for UN war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz to report on whether Serbia was fully cooperating with the court -- the condition for unblocking Belgrade's EU path.

An EU diplomat said envoys had agreed on these conditions last week and there had been no new developments. "Both are still lacking," he said after the ambassadors' last meeting before a month-long summer break.

Asked whether this meant that the decision was postponed until September at the earliest, the diplomat said: "You could put it like that. It's postponed until we have those two elements."

EU foreign ministers last week called the arrest a milestone on Serbia's road to joining the EU, but several said Belgrade must go further to reap full benefits.

"We are still waiting for Radovan Karadzic's transfer to the Hague, the arrest of Mladic and Serbia still has to set up a witness-protection program," Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Rob Dekker said. "We are also waiting for Mr. Brammertz's position on Serbia's cooperation."

AP, Reuters