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Bosnia: U.S. Wants NATO To Support Serb President

Madrid, 7 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said today that Washington wants its NATO allies to take coordinated action to isolate Bosnian Serb leaders who oppose the Dayton peace process.

Albright also said the United States wants its allies to support embattled Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic in her power struggle against indicted war suspect Radovan Karadzic and his supporters.

U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen today accused Karadzic of trying to disrupt the Bosnia peace process. Cohen said that as long as Karadzic continues to exercise influence, he is going to continue to present a problem.

In Sarajevo, NATO commander General George Joulwan said the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) will ensure compliance with the Dayton accords and democratic norms. Joulwan urged that there be no miscalculation by any parties in the Bosnian Serb entity about SFOR's intent to carry out its mandate. NATO has deployed additional troops near Banja Luka, Plavsic's headquarters, to prevent possible clashes with hardliners seeking to oust her.

The leadership crisis erupted last week when Plavsic, a relative moderate, tried to fire the interior minister, whom she accused of being involved with Karadzic in smuggling during the Bosnian war. When parliament refused to recognize the sacking, Plavsic dissolved the assembly and called new elections on September 1. But hardline deputies have ignored the decision and continued moves to remove Plavsic.

International envoys accuse Bosnian Serb hardliners of reverting to "totalitarian" style propaganda in order to sow fear and instability in the Bosnian Serb entity as the power struggle there deepens.

The Bosnia mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is dismissing inflammatory reports about President Plavsic by the Bosnian Serb news agency as ridiculous lies. The news agency is strictly controlled by ultra-nationalists loyal to Karadzic. OSCE spokesman David Foley is demanding Plavsic be given immediate access to the television network controlled by Karadzic's supporters.

Simon Haselock, a spokesman for High Representative to Bosnia Carl Westendorp, said today that Plavsic's decision to dissolve the Bosnian Serb parliament last week was constitutional. Haselock says major international powers now consider the Pale parliament to be an illegal assembly. He said any laws that the assembly tries to rewrite will not be recognized by the international community.He also said the High Representative may move to suspend media outlets that clearly violate the letter or spirit of the Dayton accords.

Bosnian Serb hardliners are using the state media to accuse Plavsic of being a traitor and bringing the Bosnian Serb entity to the brink of ruin. Plavsic has called Karadzic and his loyal police forces criminals who are profitting from illegal smuggling operations.

Plavsic yesterday did not attend a meeting offered by Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb member of Bosnia's three-member presidency and a hardline ally of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Over the weekend, the top U.S. envoy to the former Yugoslavia met with Plavsic and backed her in her standoff with Karadzic's supporters.

An RFR/RL correspondent in Banja Luka reported Robert Gelbard met with Plavsic for more than two hours. He later told reporters that the U.S. views her decision earlier this week to dissolve parliament in the Bosnian Serb entity as constitutional.

Gelbard expressed concern that Plavsic does not have access to state-controlled media and that the Bosnian Serb police have not yet been reorganized as required under the Dayton accord. He says if the police are not reformed, the consequences would be serious. He did not elaborate.