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Balkan Report: March 25, 1998


25 March 1998, Volume 2, Number 12

Bosnian Serbs Back Milosevic. The Republika Srpska's parliament approved a declaration in Banja Luka on March 22, in which it slammed attempts to internationalize the Kosovo question. The text stated that "a certain section of the international community [supports] separatism" in the province. The declaration added that the legislators back the Belgrade authorities "in their efforts to give an adequate response to all expressions of Albanian terrorism" in Kosovo, RFE/RL reported.

The legislature had other items on its agenda as well and there were lively, often polemical discussions starting on March 20. Deputies voted to move the Constitutional Court to Banja Luka and passed a series of measures dealing with the courts and legal system.

Representatives of the mainly Muslim Coalition for a United Bosnia and Herzegovina opposed a proposal by Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party to extend state pension rights to survivors of Draza Mihajlovic's World War II royalist Chetnik Movement.

But perhaps the biggest news came on March 22, when Prime Minister Milorad Dodik met with Serbian-American businessman and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic in Belgrade. The two signed an agreement by which Panic and his ICN company will invest $5-10 million to build a pharmaceuticals plant in the Republika Srpska and set up a distribution network. Dodik told reporters that his government is working closely with the World Bank, the IMF, the EU and other international institutions to draw up a new model for privatization in the Republika Srpska. He added that he hopes that the plan will be ready in about two months.

Sacirbey Talks to "RFE/RL Newsline." Muhamed Sacirbey, who is Bosnia's ambassador to the UN, told an RFE/RL correspondent at an international conference on Balkan cooperation in Ohrid on March 21 that Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's recent proposal to demilitarize Bosnia is aimed at leaving the Muslims defenseless (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 20, 1998). Sacirbey added that Tudjman and the Herzegovinian Croats want to dissolve the joint Croat and Muslim Bosnian federal army also "because it is the only federal institution that wields real power." Sacirbey stressed that the Herzegovinians hope to dissolve the federation, re-establish their wartime Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, and ultimately join Croatia. He noted that Croatia and Yugoslavia must also be demilitarized if any demilitarization of Bosnia is to be effective.

Sacirbey went on to caution representatives of the international community against holding highly publicized meetings with persons such as Tudjman and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The ambassador argued that such meetings, which are long on photo opportunities but often short on substance, constitute "dancing the tango with dictators." The photos and television footage that emerge from such sessions send a message both to the "the dictator" and to his people that he is important in the eyes of the world. Sacirbey stressed that the international community thereby provides a form of legitimacy to leaders like Milosevic, with whom, the ambassador suggests, it would be better to meet in private, unpublicized sessions.

Answering a question about ideological differences in his own party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Sacirbey said that what is important in Bosnian politics is not differences in political programs but differences in political method. The ambassador argued that the key divide is between those who favor a democratic approach and people who remain true to the authoritarian methods that they learned under communism.

Quote of the Week. Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, addressing the Bektashi community's Nevruz celebration in Tirana on March 22, said that "Albania has a special need for brotherhood." He added that "the blow that the Albanian people suffered [during the unrest in early 1997] was not only economic but psychological as well. Spiritual reconstruction and the contribution of the religious communities are therefore needed to help rebuild our nation and country." Representatives of the government, the opposition and the main religious communities attended the ceremonies. Communist dictator Enver Hoxha had declared Albania the first atheist state in the world in 1967 and actively persecuted religious leaders.

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