updated 5/3/2006 9:34:34 AM ET 2006-05-03T13:34:34

The chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor accused Serbia on Wednesday of misleading her by insisting two months ago that Ratko Mladic’s arrest was imminent. She said the ex-army commander is in the Belgrade region, changing apartments daily.

Carla Del Ponte said Serbian authorities knew Mladic’s location as recently as 10 days ago — and could have arrested him before he disappeared again.

She said she suspected Mladic — indicted by the tribunal in 1995 on genocide charges — was eluding arrest with help from inside information about authorities’ efforts to track him. Del Ponte said she was unconvinced Belgrade had a “focused and coordinated plan” for Mladic’s arrest, calling Serbia’s handling of the case “unprofessional.”

The prosecutor welcomed the EU decision Wednesday to freeze talks with Serbia aimed at integrating the Balkan country into the bloc after she delivered a negative report on Belgrade’s efforts to EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

She said the failure to deliver Mladic to The Hague for trial means “that I was misled when I was told at the end of March that the arrest of Mladic was a matter of days or weeks,” and any expectation that Mladic could be induced to surrender “is completely unrealistic and simply wrong.”

Mladic commanded the Bosnian Serb forces during the 1991-95 Bosnian war in which an estimated 200,000 people were killed. He has been charged with genocide for the deaths of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the U.N.-declared safe zone of Srebrenica in July 1995.

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