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In a bold gesture of reconciliation, Serbian President Boris Tadić attended a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia yesterday (11 July), where thousands of Muslims were massacred by Serbs back in 1995. An estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in July 1995 by the army of Republika Srpska under the command of general Ratko Mladic and other paramilitary units in the Bosnian UN 'safe area' of Srebrenica (pronounced 'Srebrenitsa'). This took place despite the presence of 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers in the area .

In 2002, the government of Wim Kok accepted partial responsibility and resigned for having mishandled the situation in Srebrenica.

General Ratko Mladić of the army of Republika Srpska is recognised by the Hague tribunal as being responsible for the massacre. Mladic was also indicted in connection with crimes committed during the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo.

Of the 46 indictees requested from Serbia by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Belgrade has extradited all but three: one died before the transfer procedure could take place, while Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić are still at large.

Hadžić faces several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in the forcible removal and murder of thousands of Croatian civilians from the Republic of Croatia between 1991 and 1993.

President Tadić received a frosty reception in Srebrenica, with many ethnic Muslims booing him and calling him a "monkey" and a "murderer", Euronews reported.

In contrast, the crowd at the Potočari Memorial Centre near Srebrenica received Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with enthusiasm.

Tadić expressed regret over the war crimes and placed a wreath at the memorial complex reading: 'To the innocent victims, from Serbian President Boris Tadić'.

Speaking about the main perpetrator of the atrocities, General Ratko Mladić from the army of Republika Srpska, who is still at large and believed to be hiding somewhere in Serbia , Tadić said:

"With the arrest of General Mladić I would know that part of my job were finished. We need this for the future, for building confidence, and for our forthcoming generations."

In March, the Serbian parliament issued a declaration apologising for the Srebrenica massacre .

In his address, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan described the Serbian parliament's declaration as "a truly historic decision for a joint and peaceful future" in the Balkans.

"Tadic's presence here is also a historic step for our enlightened future, it is an historic step for the world from which we will build peace. I believe that Srebrenica, as the place where the honour of humanity disappeared, will also be the place where the honour of humanity will emerge," Erdoğan added, quoted by the daily Zaman.

The Turkish prime minister referred to the failure of the UN and Dutch peacekeepers to prevent the massacre, which took place in a "safe heaven" run by the international community.

In Srebrenica, humanity's conscience - as well as definitions of 'safe haven' and 'international peace force' - took a heavy battering, Erdoğan said.

Among those attending the ceremony were Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, French Foreign Minister Bertrand Kouchner, EU Special Representative and High Representative in Bosnia Valentin Inzko and Croatian President Ivo Josipovic.

President of the Bosnian Muslims Haris Silajdzic attended, but not Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska.

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