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Bosnia: Hardliners' Election Boycott Won't Delay Poll

Brussels, 10 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - The European Commission has denounced Croat nationalist leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina for planning to boycott municipal elections this weekend. Hardline Serb parties have also called for a boycott. David Foley, spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is organizing the elections, said the polls will proceed as planned and that parties who do not choose to take part will simply lose the elections.

European Commission spokeswoman Lousewies van der Laan said in Brussels today that the commission considers the Bosnian Croat action to be a violation of the Dayton peace accord that ended the Bosnian war.

She said the commission -- the main executive arm of the European Union -- is considering measures together with the rest of the international community to see what pressure can be exerted on the Bosnian Croats to reconsider. She said it was complete nonsense for them to claim that refugees had had problems reigstering to vote

The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the main Croat party in Bosnia, said yesterday it would boycott the internationally supervised elections over the weekend because conditions for a "free, democratic and fair election" had not been met. Bosnian Serb hardline nationalists also appear close to a boycott.

The elections, postponed already several times, are seen as a key to implementation of the Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian war.

France today threatened to suspend aid or assistance to local authorities in Bosnia which refuse to follow the rules of democracy and participate in the elections.

Escalating tensions in the Bosnian Serb camp culminated yesterday with several top hardline Bosnian Serb leaders being held in a hotel in the northern town of Banja Luka, base of Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic. They were held after taking part in a banned anti-Plavsic rally in the town that NATO and U.S. officials said was designed to mask a coup against Plavsic. The leaders eventually were chased out by Plavsic supporters hurling stones, bottles and eggs.

One of those held was Momcilo Krajisnek, Serb member of Bosnia's joint presidency and aide to Plavsic's predecessor, indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. Krajisnek today accused Plavsic of leading Serbs into catastrophe.

Jacques Klein, the deputy to the top international representative in Bosnia, today reiterated that Bosnian Serb hardliners had tried to infiltrate armed men into a banned political rally in Banja Luka this week.

Klein told reporters in Sarajevo that by busing hundreds of armed young men into Banja Luka on Monday evening, the hardliners had aims other than attending a rally against President Plavsic.

He described those in the buses as a "wrecker crowd of thugs" who had been paid about $55 to attend the rally and "do mischief." He said the aim was to unseat Plavsic.

He said action by NATO SFOR troops and pro-Plavsic police in halting the buses at road blocks had averted any bloodshed. Klein says other hardline Serb leaders and aides held in a Banka Luka hotel were forced to leave behind a hotel lobby full of weapons.

NATO said today that 72 hardliners taken from the hotel to a NATO base were checked to determine if any were wanted war crimes suspects. None were and all were released.