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War-crimes suspects are offered quick trials

War crimes suspects in former Yugoslavia are being given assurances of a reasonably quick trial if they agree to surrender voluntarily to the International War Crimes Tribunal.

U.S. officials described the offer Thursday as a modest attempt to lure the more than 60 suspects still at large in the Balkans to turn themselves in to tribunal at The Hague.The offer reflected the frustration over the slow progress toward bringing suspects to trial long after their indictment.

The State Department said war crimes suspects would be brought to trial within three months to five months if they surrender voluntarily.

A statement by spokesman James Foley said the U.S. government "guarantees full support for this undertaking, and pledges to make every effort to strengthen the tribunal's resources to facilitate speedy trials for all indictees, particularly those who surrender voluntarily."

He said that those still at large, including Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, "continue to defy the will of the international community in refusing to submit to the jurisdiction of the tribunal."

"This is unacceptable," Foley said.

Most suspects indicted by the tribunal have refused to surrender. A reason often cited was concern about a potentially long pretrial wait.

A senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the promise of a speedy trial would be on the agenda of U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard when he visited the Balkans starting Friday. His trip was taking him to Croatia, Bosnia and Yugoslavia.