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Balkan Report: January 7, 1998

7 January 1998, Volume 2, Number 1

Ring Out The Old? A car bomb caused damage but no injuries in Croat-held western Mostar during the night of December 31-January 1, local police said on New Year's Day. In the days leading up to the celebrations, a group called the Organization of Active Islamic Youth distributed leaflets in Muslim-controlled eastern Mostar to urge Muslims not to celebrate New Year's together with their Croat neighbors. The same organization circulated leaflets in Sarajevo in early December to call on Muslims not to celebrate Christmas. In previous years, President Alija Izetbegovic has publicly criticized the use of Santa Claus and other Western holiday symbols in Bosnia.

On January 1, the Mostar-based Coalition for a United and Democratic Bosnia and the Social Democratic Party condemned both sets of leaflets, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. The Coalition is the main representative of mainstream Muslim political interests in the region.

Plavsic Defends Her Prime Minister. Meanwhile at the opening session of the Bosnian Serb parliament in Bijeljina on December 27, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic suggested a division of offices within the legislature between the four main Serbian parties. The hard-line Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and Serbian Radical Party (SRS) rejected her proposal and blocked parliament from doing anything more than confirming the legislators' mandates.

She also nominated Mladen Ivanic, a professor of economics in Banja Luka, to head the government. But on January 3, Aleksa Buha of the SDS and Nikola Poplasen of the SRS met with Ivanic and rejected his cabinet proposals. They urged him to ask Plavsic to nominate someone else. Many observers concluded that the SDS and SRS were simply stonewalling in order to prevent any resolution of the Bosnian Serb power struggle. At any rate, Plavsic met with Ivanic on January 5 and said that she has complete confidence in him and that he will succeed in forming a cabinet sooner or later.

Ivanic's Idea. Ivanic told RFE/RL on December 29 that any workable proposal for a Bosnian Serb government must proceed from the fact that there are two power centers, one in Pale and the other in Banja Luka. He added that the political in-fighting between these two camps ominously resembles that among the Krajina Serbs shortly before the demise of the Republika Srpska Krajina in 1995.

Plavsic's prime minister warned his fellow Serbs, moreover, that rejecting the Dayton agreement is not an option. Were they to do so, he argued, the international community would support the partition of the Republika Srpska and revise Dayton at the Serbs' expense.

Ivanic concluded that the only feasible solution is to work within the framework of the peace treaty and to set up what he called a government of national unity consisting of two parts. The first element would be based on political parties and positions would be allotted according to how well each party did in last November's elections. The second part would consist of experts chosen on the basis of professional criteria regardless of their political affiliations, if any.

The economist concluded by telling RFE/RL that any government set up solely on the basis of political parties would fall victim to the endless squabbling among them, but that a government of experts without backing from the parties would lack any authority.