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Bosnia: Holbrooke Meets Embattled Serb President


Banja Luka, Bosnia; 8 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke met embattled Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic in the northern Bosnian town of Banja Luka today. Holbrooke is on a mission aimed at pressuring leaders in the former Yugoslavia to fully comply with the Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian war, including handing over war crimes suspects for trial.

Plavsic is involved in a power struggle with hardliners in the Bosnian Serb entity, including her predecessor, wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, an indicted war crimes suspect. Plavsic accuses the hardliners of depriving the entity of revenue through contraband activities. Hardliners have threatened to impeach her and the issue is being considered by the constitutional court.

Holbrooke says Karadzic, who has been indicted for war crimes, should turn himself over to the UN War Tribunal in the Hague. He says no alternatives are acceptable.

The U.S. envoy says the international community rejects a suggestion by Karadzic that he stand trial in a Bosnian Serb court under the Hague Tribunal's supervision. Karadzic made the proposal in an interview appearing today in the German daily "Sueddeutsche Zeitung."

The Bosnian Serb member of Bosnia's collective presidency, Momcilo Krajisnik, said he told Holbrooke today that regardless of the court's decision, he will not press for Plavsic's dismissal. Krajisnik said such a move would be traumatic for the entity.

Holbrooke, a key negotiator of the 1995 Dayton agreement, also confirmed today that his talks with rival Bosnian leaders had resolved a dispute over the distribution of ambassadorial posts.

Western countries suspended contacts with Bosnia's ambassadors this week after the former Yugoslav republic failed to meet a deadline for agreeing how to share out diplomatic posts.

Holbrooke told reporters in Sarajevo that under the deal, the Bosnian envoy to the United Nations will be a Muslim, a Serb will be appointed ambassador to the United States, and a Croat will serve as envoy to Japan.

Holbrooke said that in talks overnight with members of Bosnia's multi-ethnic collective presidency, the leaders had also agreed on the composition of a joint military commission and on a single area code for the country's peacetime telephone network.

He said the accords are full evidence of Western determination to enforce the Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian war. He added that the agreed steps were a solid, step forward on compliance with Dayton.

German diplomat Gerd Wagner, deputy to the international High Representative to Bosnia, said he will recommend to major powers today that they lift the suspension on contacts with Bosnian envoys.

Holbrooke says his successful mediation with Bosnian leaders over division of ambassadorial posts also produced a new problem - an argument over the designs proposed for Bosnia's new currency.

Holbrooke told reporters in Sarajevo today that because agreement could not be reached on the design of a common currency, a $90 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Bosnia has been frozen.

A spokesman for Bosnia's Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic, Mirza Hajric, said the talks deadlocked because Bosnian Serbs insisted on their version of the joint banknote having pictures of Serb monasteries in areas outside Serb territory and Serb nationalist symbols. Under previously agreed rules, the Croat-Muslim Federation and the Bosnian Serb entity each have the right to veto the other's currency designs if they are felt to be offensive.

U.S. Treasury Department official David Lipton - travelling with Holbrooke - said the IMF freeze means a delay in creation of Bosnia's central bank - an important step in Bosnia's overall finances.

Holbrooke is on the third day of a mission to former Yugoslavia aimed at pressing local leaders to fully comply with the Dayton accords. Holbrooke is due to travel on to Belgrade for talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
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