BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The United States has said it would regard as "provocative" any referendum that threatens the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.
The statement from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo on February 9 came as the parliament of Bosnia's Serbian entity, the Republika Srpska, debated a draft law on referendums that the international community has said
could lead to a vote on independence for the republic.
The statement cautioned against any referendum that would challenge the Dayton peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war and the authority of the international community's high representative in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko.
The government of the Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia's two semi-autonomous regions, introduced the legislation in reaction to Inzko's decision to extend the mandate of foreign judges and prosecutors working in the Bosnian state court charged with trying cases on war crimes and corruption.
Republika Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has said those rulings were another in a long line of decisions diminishing the region's autonomy and threatened to hold a referendum on support for the Dayton agreement and Bosnia's potential membership in NATO.
In his address to parliament on February 9, Dodik said the law on referendums is not the beginning of the Republika Srpska's separation from Bosnia.
He told deputies in the Serbs' capital, Banja Luka, that "the atmosphere created in Sarajevo about this issue has resulted in a story about how this is the road to secession, which is not true." But he added that "whether [secession] will happen or not is a hypothetical question that requires hypothetical answers."
The opposition and some analysts have accused Dodik of manipulating the referendum issue in an election year because his support has eroded due to unfulfilled promises of economic prosperity.
Dodik's party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, has a majority in the assembly and is expected to approve the law.