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Bosnia: President Urges Hardliners To Support New Government

Pale, 20 January 1998 (RFE/RL) - Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic's party today urged its hardline opponents to withdraw their verbal attacks against the new moderate Bosnian Serb government. Plavsic's Serb Popular Alliance said that Bosnian Serbs expect ultra-nationalists in the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) to distance themselves from "hate-filled accusations" against Plavsic's supporters.

The SDS ultra-nationalists said today they will not recognize newly-elected Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik because his election was brought about with votes from deputies representing Muslim refugees. Instead, SDS ultra-nationalists have vowed to fight for authority in the Serb-held part of Bosnia.

The SDS, still loyal to Bosnian Serb wartime leader and indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, is the largest single party in the new Bosnian Serb parliament. But its deputies walked out of parliament Sunday during the vote for a new Prime Minister. Moderate Dodik won the ballot with votes from other Serb moderates and deputies representing Muslim and Croat refugees.

Dodik's cabinet held its first session yesterday in Banja Luka despite opposition from hardliners. NATO troops and police have been deployed to guard the new government against possible hostile acts.

The United States welcomed the election of Dodik as the new prime minister, calling it a "major step forward in the Dayton peace process."

State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters yesterday that Dodik is a spokesman for "moderate and principled" policies. Rubin said Washington strongly supports his vow to end government corruption.

Rubin said the U.S. will also support Dodik and Plavsic in their efforts to establish the democratic process and rule of law in the entity.

Meanwhile, the international envoy to Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp, may choose a common Bosnian currency today. Westendorp's office said last week he would decide the issue today if no compromise was reached by Bosnia's three-person presidency.