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Ratko Mladic set for extradition to the Hague

Updated at 12:05 p.m. ET.

BELGRADE, Serbia - Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic can be extradited to a U.N. tribunal on war-crimes charges despite defense claims he is too sick to face trial, a Belgrade court ruled Friday.

A defense lawyer said Mladic would appeal the decision on Monday. The former fugitive could extradited within hours if that appeal is rejected.

If Mladic is extradited, he will argue that he's innocent of war crimes charges that include orchestrating some of the worst atrocities of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, the suspect's son indicated after visiting the former fugitive in jail.

"His stand is that he's not guilty of what he's being accused of," Darko Mladic told reporters outside the Belgrade court.

Mladic is accused of directing the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, and involvement in the relentless four-year siege of Sarajevo.

Video: Mladic arrest reopens old wounds
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Video: Mladic arrest reopens old wounds

A police photo of Mladic showed him looking hollow-cheeked and shrunken after a decade and a half on the run, a far cry from the beefy commander accused of personally orchestrating some of the worst horrors of the Balkan wars.

Mladic's son said the former general suffered two strokes while on the run, has a partially paralyzed right hand, and can barely speak.

The photo taken moments after his arrest in a tiny northern Serbian village shows a clean-shaven Mladic with thinning hair wearing a navy blue baseball hat and looking up with wide eyes, as if in surprise.

Serbian security forces told The Associated Press that Mladic was arrested in the garden of a relative's house in the village of Lazarevo. After being taken to a jail cell at Serbia's war-crimes court where, he requested strawberries, Leo Tolstoy novels and a television set.

A judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the AP Mladic had also asked to visit the Belgrade grave of his daughter Ana, who killed herself in 1994.

A Thursday extradition hearing was adjourned after the judge cut short the questioning because Mladic's "poor physical state" left him unable to communicate, defense lawyer Milos Saljic said.

State TV showed Mladic walking haltingly into the closed-door extradition hearing. Saljic said Mladic needed medical care and "should not be moved in such a state."

Deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said that Mladic, 69, is taking a lot of medicine, but "responds very rationally to everything that is going on."

Weakness is not a term that would have been used to describe Ratko Mladic in his prime, says CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips. Ruthless, maybe. Also: murderous, brutal, pitiless, even sadistic.

One of the world's most-wanted fugitives, Mladic was the top commander of the Bosnian Serb army during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, which killed more than 100,000 people and drove another 1.8 million from their homes. Thousands of Muslims and Croats were killed, tortured or driven out in a campaign to purge the region of non-Serbs.

Mladic is accused of ordering the shelling of Sarajevo, and of targeting areas where civilian casualties were likely to be highest, like the water taps that were set up because the city's main water supply was cut off.

Mladic was the commander whose troops overran what was supposed to be a U.N. safe haven in Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian Muslims had taken refuge. It was Mladic who guaranteed the safety of those present, before separating the women and children from the men, and then ordering the systematic slaughter of more than 7,000 men in the worst mass killing in Europe since the Nazi atrocities of the Second World War.

He was accused by the Hague tribunal of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Appearing on CBS' The Early Show" Friday, retired Gen. Wesley Clarke said Mladic "seemed to pursue ideological savagery against the Muslim and Croatian members of the citizenry" in Sarajevo.

"There's no question that he [had a] very strong, sadistic streak," Clark told anchor Erica Hill. "He was a very intelligent man who had intimidated some of the U.N. Commanders. I thought that he was blustery. He was full of passion and ideological zealotry for this cause of Serb nationalism - and ultimately, he was a murderer and a war criminal."

Gen. Clark said Mladic was a regular officer of the Yugoslav national army who was chosen to lead the Republka Srpska forces. "He was simply a Serb general until [President] Milosevic brought him home, and he was somewhat lionized by these right wingers there."

After Milosevic was taken to the Hague, Mladic's support gradually fell away. "The nations of the West never gave up on pursuing Ratko Mladic, and the Serb government itself was constantly pressured to turn him over to justice." Clark called his arrest "an historic step and a very positive step, for Serbia and the West."

Also on "The Early Show," Serbia's ambassador to the U.S., Vladimir Petrovic, said that before Mladic's arrest, "We have arrested and sent to the Hague tribunal about 45 people, including two former presidents of Serbia, including President Slobodan Milosevic, and many generals."

He called the arrest of Mladic not only Serbia's legal obligation under international and domestic law but also "our moral obligation."

Mladic was arrested by intelligence agents in a raid before dawn Thursday at a relative's house in a village in northern Serbia. The act was trumpeted by the government as a victory for a country worthy of European Union membership and Western embrace.

The residents of the village where Mladic was caught remained defiant.

"I know everybody in this village. Even if we saw him, they would have never been able to find him, if we knew," said Nedeljko Arsic, a local resident "We would have been his slaves and we would have hidden him and they would have never been able to find him and arrest him."

Judge Fouad Riad of the U.N. tribunal said there was evidence against Mladic of "unimaginable savagery."

"Thousands of men executed and buried in mass graves, hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers' eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson," Riad said during Mladic's 1995 indictment in absentia.

Bosnians were deeply divided over the arrest of Mladic, with some calling him an "honorable man" and others labeling him a "monster."

The arrest and wartime memories were the main topics of discussion Friday morning. Muslim Bosniaks said they were sorry Mladic was not brought to justice before, while many Serbs claimed he was betrayed by the same people he defended.

The Serbian government, which has changed mightily while Mladic was at large, banned all public gatherings and tightened security in the country to prevent ultra-nationalists from making good on pledges to pour into the streets in protest. There was relatively little unrest overnight.

Hundreds of pro-Mladic demonstrators in the northern city of Novi Sad tried to break into the offices of the governing Democratic Party but were prevented by riot police. At least two people were reported injured.

President Boris Tadic appeared jubilant at a news conference announcing Mladic's capture and a Serbian official close to Tadic told The Associated Press that the president had personally overseen the arrest operation, and compared it to President Barack Obama's involvement in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

But the raid in the village of Lazarevo, 60 miles northeast of Belgrade, was no Navy SEAL operation and the Serbian intelligence agents didn't have to fire a shot. Mladic had two pistols with him in the single-story yellow brick house, but put up no resistance, officials said.

"They didn't even wake us up," said a resident who identified himself only as Zoran for fear of retaliation.

He and other residents of the village of 2,000 people insisted they had no idea Mladic was living in their midst — not that they would have minded.

"I'm furious," Zoran said. "They arrested our hero."

The arrest releases Serbia from the widespread suspicion it was protecting Mladic. U.N. war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz was due next month to give the world body a report critical of Serbia's lack of cooperation with the hunt for Mladic and other fugitives.

The Netherlands had used such reports to justify blocking Serbia's efforts to join the EU, and the arrest could help Serbia shed its image as a pariah state that sheltered the men responsible for the worst atrocities of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Serbia still faces many obstacles to EU membership, and new laws would be required on everything from farming to financial markets. It might also have to recognize the independence of Kosovo, a former Serbian province, and capture another war crimes fugitive, Goran Hadzic. Hadzic, a former leader of Serbs in Croatia, is the last of 161 people sought by the tribunal.

"If the question is whether Serbia is closer today to the European Union than it was yesterday, yes, the answer is absolutely yes," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said. But he said other conditions to membership remain.

Among the horrors Mladic is charged with, foremost is the July 1995 slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, which was supposed to be a safe zone guarded by Dutch peacekeepers.

Mladic seized the town and was seen handing candy to Muslim children in the town's square. He assured them everything would be fine and patted one boy on the head. Hours later, his men began days of killing, rape and torture.

The Dayton accords brought peace to Bosnia in 1995, and the following year Mladic was dismissed from his post. He continued to live in Bosnia, until his trail grew too hot and he moved with his family to Belgrade in the late 1990s, living free in a posh suburban villa.

Even as Mladic allies such as Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic were brought to The Hague, the former military leader was idolized and sheltered by ultra-nationalists and ordinary Serbs despite a €10 million ($14 million) Serbian government bounty, plus $5 million more offered by the U.S. State Department.

Mladic was known to have made daring forays into Belgrade to watch soccer games, dine at plush restaurants and visit his daughter's grave. He refused to give interviews and smiling quizzically when he happened to be photographed.

When Serbia ousted strongman Milosevic in 2000, the new pro-democracy authorities signaled they might hand Mladic over to the tribunal, and he was rumored to have returned to Bosnia. But the flamboyant Mladic went mostly underground in 2002.

Although there were media reports he brazenly used the alias Milorad Komadic, an anagram of his true identity, Interior Minister Ivica Dacic denied it.

Authorities recorded the last trace of Mladic living in Belgrade in January 2006, said Rasim Ljajic, a member of a government team hunting the ex-general.

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