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Bosnia: Serbs Warned They Cannot Secede; Peace Force May Remain

Sarajevo, 9 September 1996 (RFE/RL) - The international envoy for Bosnia, Carl Bildt, today warned that Bosnian Serbs will not be allowed to secede from the former Yugoslav republic after landmark general elections on Saturday.

Speaking in Sarajevo, Bildt said that if the constitution prescribed by the Dayton peace accord is not implemented and power-sharing does not work, then "peace will not last."

But outside powers are determined to make peace work and have drafted a package of strong "incentives and disincentives" to help make recalcitrant factions comply, Bildt said.

Over the weekend, leaders of the Bosnian Serbs issued a string of secessionist statements at election rallies leading up to the first post-war, Bosnia-wide vote on September 14.

A substantial peace force will be needed in Bosnia for at least two years of a "consolidation period" of the peace process, Bildt said, adding that the force must be capable of deterring anyone threatening the peace.

Bildt said the issue had been discussed by European Union foreign ministers at a meeting in Tralee, Ireland, over the weekend and none had "any difficulty with the concept" of a reduced international peace force remaining in Bosnia. The mandate of the current peace force expires in December.

UN officials today plan to unveil a so-called "voter route" security plan for Muslims seeking to vote in Serb areas in the elections. The NATO-led peace force believes the plan will allow its troops to better avert potential clashes along the 19-designated routes across the internal demarcation line. Bosnian Serbs are not expected to be crossing into Muslim areas to vote.