SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) – Bosnia’s future is being put at risk because indicted war crimes suspects from the bloody Balkan ethnic wars a decade ago continue to escape justice, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday.

Powell, making a four-hour visit in the Bosnian capital after a flight from Kuwait, noted that the inability of authorities to capture former Bosnia Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is preventing the country from joining the European Union and other continental institutions.

“I won’t be happy until I see him standing before the bar of justice in The Hague,” Powell said, alluding to the international tribunal in that Dutch city to prosecute Yugoslavia war crimes.

Also wanted by the tribunal is the former Bosnia Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, chief of Karadzic’s military forces, who is believed to be at large in neighboring Serbia.

During his brief stay, Powell met with the three-member Bosnian presidency and said he was grateful to Bosnia for sending a contingent of troops to the multinational force in Iraq.

Powell also spent time with high school students representing the country’s three principal ethnic groups: Bosnian Muslim, Croatian and Serb.

Karadzic and Mladic were indicted on genocide charges in 1995 in the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims from the enclave of Srebrenica and for other massacres and alleged abuses in Bosnia. They are among 20 fugitives still sought by the tribunal.

More than 200,000 people were killed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, and over a million were displaced from their homes.

At the recent NATO summit in Turkey, Bosnia had hoped to have been admitted to the Partnership for Peace, a continental security group founded after the Cold War affiliated with the trans-Atlantic alliance. Its bid was rejected because of the country’s lack of cooperation with the Hague tribunal.

The United States dispatched 20,000 troops to Bosnia as part of a postwar peacekeeping effort. About 900 Americans remain among 12,000 NATO-led peacekeepers.

Powell said all but a small number of the Americans will be withdrawn by the end of the year, when the European Union is to take over peacekeeping operations.

Bosnia was the next-to-last stop on a tour that has taken Powell to Hungary, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. After Bosnia, he was to fly to Poland.

At a news conference Saturday before leaving Kuwait, Powell seemed unfazed by a dismissive response by the government of Sudan to a U.N. Security Council resolution that held out the possibility of sanctions unless Sudan moves quickly to ease the humanitarian crisis in the Western Darfur region.

“They can say whatever they wish to say,” Powell said. “The Security Council has spoken in a rather strong vote.”

Hours after Powell spoke, Sudan’s foreign minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, played down the earlier rejection by his government’s information minister.

“If we look closely at this matter, we will find out that there is no reason to reject the resolution as it doesn’t contain anything new, anything other than what already has been signed on in the agreement with the United Nations,” Ismail told reporters in Khartoum.

France, the former colonial power in Chad, which borders the Darfur region, began deploying troops and humanitarian aid to the frontier Saturday.

Powell said he hopes Sudan will use a 30-day window afforded by the resolution, approved Friday, to do what it can to control the Arab militias held responsible for widespread abuses against the black African population.

“Let’s not forget the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are in need,” Powell said.

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AP-ES-07-31-04 1405EDT

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