But Rasim Ljajic, head of Serbia's national council for co-operation with The Hague, told the publication that the two issues were separate.

"The request of the family to declare Mladic dead will be processed by the court and we don't want to interfere with it," he told Vecernje Novosti.

"The charges against Bosiljka Mladic ... will also be processed by the court but at the request of the police. Those two processes are completely separate."

EU pressure

Serbia has come under increasing pressure to arrest its remaining war crimes fugitives in order to proceed with European Union membership.

In recent months, Belgrade has stepped up efforts to arrest Mladic, raiding houses belonging to him and his family.

On Tuesday, the Netherlands said it would consider ratifying a pact, seen as the first step for Serbia's EU membership, depending on a report next week by the prosecutor of the UN war crimes court.

Stressing that Serbia's full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was essential for EU membership, the foreign ministry said a good report by prosecutor Serge Brammertz to EU foreign ministers could be decisive.

Brammertz said in Belgrade last month he was "cautiously optimistic" that Serbia was getting closer to arresting Mladic, who is wanted for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The tribunal is also looking for former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic. Both men are believed to be in Serbia.

Genocide charge

Mladic was charged with genocide by the ICTY in 1995.

He is wanted for allegedly masterminding the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead and the 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Last month his family moved to declare him legally dead in an attempt to unfreeze his pension.

Milos Saljic said at the time that Maldic's relatives were "convinced" that the general was no longer alive, saying "no one has seen him for seven years".

Officials have said the motion would not affect their long search for the military commander during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, as they either had to prove conclusively that he was indeed dead or arrest him if he was alive.