|Ratko Mladic was allowed on Tuesday morning to visit the grave of his daughter Ana, who killed herself in 1994 [AFP]
A Serbian court has rejected an appeal by Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander, against his extradition to a UN war crimes court in The Hague.
The 69-year-old will be extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) "as soon as possible," Bruno Vekaric, Serbia's deputy war crimes prosecutor, said following the ruling on Tuesday.
The Belgrade court's decision paves the way for Mladic's extradition to face war crimes charges.
Mladic's lawyers argued he was too ill to travel to the court in the Netherlands, saying he had suffered a number of strokes and had a paralysed arm.
Milos Saljic, representing Mladic, said he was not mentally and physically fit to stand trial and asked for a team of doctors to examine his client.
The former general is charged by the tribunal for atrocities committed by his Serb troops during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the Srebrenica massacre in which about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up and killed, and the 44-month long seige of Sarajevo which left an estimated 10,000 people dead.
Away from Belgrade, in Banja Luka, the capital of the Bosnia Serb entity of Republika Srpska, thousands of Bosnian Serbs rallied to show support fro Mladic on Tuesday.
"General Ratko Mladic is our brave son who led Republika Srpska's army and us soldiers to defend it," Branislav Predojevic, who heads an association of Bosnian Serb veterans, told journalists at the start of the protest.
"General Ratko Mladic is not a war criminal."
Earlier on Tuesday Mladic was allowed to visit the grave of his daughter who committed suicide during the 1992-95 war.
He was let out of his jail cell and taken under tight security to the red marble grave in a Belgrade suburb.
Ana Mladic took her own life at the age of 23 in 1994 with her father's pistol. Media speculated that she was depressed because of her father's role in the war, but Mladic has insisted she was killed by his enemies.
Prosecutor Vekaric said Mladic was at the grave for a few minutes.
Mladic, Europe's most wanted war crimes fugitive, was arrested on Thursday in a village north of Belgrade after 16 years on the run.
Boris Tadic, the Serbian president, has rejected speculation that authorities had known of Mladic's hiding place and delayed his arrest to coincide with a visit by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief.
"Any such comment makes no sense," Tadic told the AP news agency. "The truth is that we arrested Ratko Mladic the moment we discovered him."
The EU had repeatedly said that Serbia could begin pre-membership talks only after it arrested the wartime Bosnian Serb commander.
Some EU nations have already said Serbia needs to do more, including arresting its last fugitive, Goran Hadzic, who led the Croatian Serb rebels during the 1991-1995 war.