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Bosnia: NATO Boosts Security Around Serb President

Sarajevo, 2 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Officials of the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia said today security was temporarily boosted around Biljana Plavsic, president of the Bosnian Republika Srpska, following her dispute with nationalist hardliners.

NATO spokesman Chris Riley said there had been indications overnight of a possible threat to security in the Banja Luka area but did not say what the threat was. Riley said military presence had been established to maintain security but was then reduced this morning.

Plavsic, who is viewed as a relative moderate, is based in the northern town of Banja Luka. In an appearance on state television last night, she vowed to fight efforts by hardline nationalists to oust her.

She also accused her predecessor, indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, of being involved in wartime smuggling. The confrontation between Plavsic and the hardliners erupted at the weekend when Plavsic tried to sack Interior Minister Dragan Kijic, an ally of Karadzic.

France today voiced support for Plavsic in her power struggle with nationalist hardliners.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt told a daily news briefing in Paris that France "cannot tolerate persons indicted by the international criminal tribunal having a role in political life." Rummelhardt was apparently referring to Karadzic, Plavsic's predecessor, who still has behind the scenes influence in the ruling Serb Democratic Party (SDS).

Yesterday, the radio in the Bosnian Serb entity reported that the territory's ruling party asked parliament to start moves to oust Plavsic.

According to a statement read on the radio, the party leadership, meeting in a closed session in Pale, yesterday said if Plavsic refused to resign or to accept Kijac should stay, parliament should seek her removal. Parliament is next scheduled to meet on Friday.

The constitutionality of the bid to oust Plavsic is not clear.

The Belgrade-based BETA news agency quoted Plavsic yesterday as again calling for Kijac's dismissal and vowing to use all her constitutional rights to prevent what she called a catastrophe.

She also accused hardline supporters of Karadzic of leading the Bosnian Serb entity into chaos and international isolation, while systematically excluding her from decision-making.

Plavsic told a press conference in her northern industrial base of Banja Luka that there is no budget in the entity and police are smuggling. She said the entity is increasingly isolated and its people in despair.

Plavsic added that she has been systematically excluded from decision-making by hardliners based in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale and denied the cooperation of key government ministers.