Bosnian Serb leader to testify for Karadzic's defence

Bosnian Serb nationalist president Milorad Dodik said Thursday he would testify in defence of former leader Radovan Karadzic at his genocide trial before the UN's Yugoslav war crimes court.

"I will probably be a defence witness for Karadzic in the coming months... I see no reasons not to do it," Dodik said in an interview with Serbian state television RTS.

A source from Dodik's office confirmed to AFP that he would "testify for (Karadzic's) defence," but could not say when the Bosnian Serb leader would appear before The Hague-based court.

In a letter to Dodik, Karadzic asked him to testify on April 9, after the two meet at the premises of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the court's press office said.

Karadzic began his own defence at the ICTY in October, telling the court that he should be rewarded for doing everything to avoid war in Bosnia and insisting he was a tolerant man who had sought to reduce human suffering.

Dodik said that "Karadzic is an historically important personality as he gathered a strong political force and mobilised people to defend the national interests" of the Bosnia's ethnic Serb community during the 1992-1995 war.

"However if, while doing so, he committed a crime, he should answer for that," Dodik added.

Karadzic faces 10 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia's war which left 100,000 people dead and displaced 2.2 million others.

Once the most powerful leader among Bosnian Serbs, Karadzic is accused in particular of masterminding the killings at the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, where almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in July 1995 in the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

After Bosnia's inter-ethnic war that pitted Muslims, Serbs and Croats against each other, the Balkan country was divided into two semi-autonomous entities, the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Serbs' Republika Srpska (RS), overseen by a weak central government.

Before his election as the president of the Bosnian Serb entity in October 2010, Dodik was its prime minister. He is known for his strong opposition to moves aimed at strenghtening central powers in Bosnia.