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Bosnian Serb Parties Declare "Ethnic Serb State"

  • Jolyon Naegele

Prague, July 31 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders of all but one of the 12 political parties in the Bosnian Serb republic met over the weekend in Banja Luka and declared Republika Srpska an "ethnic state of the Serb nation." They rejected reintegration into Bosnia-Herzegovina and termed non-Serb parties "alien."

The ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) called the gathering, the first consultative meeting of Bosnian Serb parties, to coordinate election campaign strategy and reach consensus on key issues. The common demands issued demonstrate continued broad support for Serbian nationalist ideals, and opposition to anything but the loosest contacts with the Croat-Muslim Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Nearly all the parties at the meeting supported the view that election appearances in Republika Srpska by candidates from the Federation are provocative and irresponsible since, as they put it, federation parties are alien in the Bosnian Serb entity.

A total of 47 parties, including the 12 parties in Republika Srpska, are due to take part in the September 14 elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Bosnian Serb parties made civil rights for ethnic minorities in Republika Srpska contingent on Serbs in the Federation enjoying the same rights.

Among those attending the Banja Luka meeting were SDS acting president Aleksa Buha and the acting president of Republika Srpska, Biljana Plavsic, successors to Radovan Karadzic, who has been indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal. International pressure, with grudging assistance from Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic, forced Karadzic to withdraw from public life this month.

Among the common approaches agreed on at Banja Luka are a refusal to give in to any further attempts by the international community concerning the fate of Karadzic and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic.

The parties rejected any suggestion by the international community or Federation representatives that Republika Srpska be reintegrated into Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Bosnian Serb parties say use of the term "reintegration" would imply the abolition of Republika Srpska and thus violate the Dayton peace accords.

The Dayton accords recognize that Bosnia-Herzegovina consists of two entities, the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republika Srpska.

The leader of the Banja Luka-based Social-Liberal Party (SLS), Miodrag Zivanovic, was the only party leader present to argue that Republika Srpska is not a state, but an entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Among the other Bosnian Serb parties participating in the election campaign are the Bosnian Serb Socialist Party (SSRS) party, which is allied with Milosevic, and a variety of nationalist parties, including the Democratic Patriotic Bloc of Banja Luka's former mayor, Predrag Radic, a party headed by "warlord" Zelko Raznjatovic - better known as "Arkan," and a monarchist party.

Some disagreement arose at the Banja Luka meeting over alloting television broadcast time to the competing political parties. Reports say the ruling Serbian Democratic Party so far has had the lion's share of air time. Some parties also complained that sudden electricty blackouts have coincided with scheduled campaign broadcasts.

The only Bosnian Serb party not attending the Banja Luka meeting was the Serbian Peasant Party.

The parties agreed to reject attempts to delay the elections in the northeastern, Serb-controlled, town of Brcko. The town, which had a Muslim majority before fighting erupted in Bosnia in 1992, straddles a narrow, strategically important corridor linking the two main parts of Republika Srpska. The Dayton accords left the final resolution of the inter-entity boundaries around Brcko to be resolved by arbitration.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees from the Sarajevo suburbs, as well as from Croat-occupied districts of Western Bosnia, have resettled in Brcko, radically changing the ethnic ratio and creating what analysts say is a 'fait accompli' in advance of the elections and arbitration.

One of the more unusual demands agreed on at Banja Luka is a bid to locate the institutions of the union of Bosnia-Herzegovina on the boundary between the two entities. This appears to be an attempt to forestall any claims to continuity by Muslims that Sarajevo is the capital of all of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Banja Luka conference appears to be a brainchild of Republika Srpska Vice President Nikola Koljevic, who last March told the Bosnian Serb parliament the entity's political parties should establish a minimum consensus regarding common national and state interests.

Koljevi, in a radio interview (Radio Kragujevac) Sunday said he will not be a candidate of