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Balkan Report: July 22, 1998

22 July 1998, Volume 2, Number 29

Plavsic Calls 'Spirit of Dayton Biggest Threat to Dayton.' Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka recently that she hopes that the new Bosnian Serb government that takes office after the September poll can be elected in parliament entirely with Serbian votes, "Oslobodjenje" wrote on July 20. The current government needs Muslim backing, but Plavsic said that relations between the rival Serbian parties are becoming better, and she hopes that they can sink their differences and unite behind the next government.

Plavsic added that the main threat to what she called the substance of the Dayton agreement is attempts by the international community to make Bosnia a multi-ethnic society again, as it was before the war. This foreign commitment to multi-ethnicity she dubbed "the spirit of Dayton." She warned that the Serbs must insist instead on the implementation of what she called the letter of the agreement, which grants specific rights to each ethnic group and to each of the two separate entities, including the Republika Srpska.

Izetbegovic Digs in on Refugee Issue... Plavsic is not the only Bosnian leader talking very much like a politician on the stump these days. In Kladanj in eastern Bosnia, some 5,000 Muslims attended a prayer service on July 18 to honor those killed in the Srebrenica massacres three years earlier. Participants included Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, and Reis Ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric, who heads the main Muslim religious organization, the Islamic Community.

Izetbegovic has been widely criticized by the Srebrenica survivors for not having done enough to save the town. They also charge him with dragging his heels on subsequent investigations into the fate of the at least 7,000 mainly Muslim males widely believed to have been massacred by General Ratko Mladic's Bosnian Serb forces.

The day before he honored the Srebrenica victims, Izetbegovic said in Sarajevo that it does not matter that the U.S. and EU recently cut off reconstruction aid to Sarajevo in response to the government's failure to resettle sufficient numbers of Serbian and Croatian former residents in their old homes. Izetbegovic stressed that he "will not throw [Muslim] refugees and soldiers out onto the streets" to make room for returnees. He added that he and his Party of Democratic Action (SDA) cannot accept what he called the demands of the international community that all refugees be allowed to go home in Muslim-controlled areas, but not to those places administered by the Serbs or Croats.

...While Bicakcic Blames Foreigners. For his part, Bosnian federal Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in a telephone interview on July 16 that refugees are currently returning to many parts of the mainly Muslim and Croat federation. He admitted, moreover, that the number of Croats and Serbs who have returned to Muslim-controlled Sarajevo remains too low. Bicakcic said, however, that a major problem that prevents refugees from going home is that the international community has not fulfilled its promises to construct houses and apartments. He singled out the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Commission for special criticism. Bicakcic charged that some unnamed foreigners "deliberately find excuses" for delaying promised aid. Sulejman Garib, who deals with refugee affairs for the federation, told RFE/RL recently that the core problem in what the international community has proclaimed the Year of Returns remains what he called the "closed nature of the Republika Srpska." Garib argued that not only do non-Serbs have great difficulty in returning there, but that Muslim and Croatian homes are being given to Serbs from Croatia.

U.S. Senate Calls Milosevic 'War Criminal.' The upper house of Congress passed a non-binding resolution on July 18, in which it urged the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to take action against Milosevic on charges of "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Washington. The text added that Milosevic is the man most responsible for the wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Bosnian Deja-Vu in Kosova British diplomats in Prishtina told Reuters on July 18 that a Serbian court has sentenced human rights activist Sally Baker to one month in prison. Her crime was to try to enter Kosova illegally from Albania in order to help Kosovar women and children flee to safety on the Albanian side of the border. Ms. Baker became well known in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993, when she helped 25 children in east Mostar to flee shelling by the Herzegovinian Croats.

And as in the Bosnian war, both sides in Kosova have already reported dozens of persons as missing. The ethnic Albanians most frequently report that Serbian paramilitary police stage roundups after taking control of a village, an RFE/RL correspondent reported last week. The Serbs point to incidents in which members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) take Serbs from cars, busses or trains. In one case in June, a group of Serbian workers were removed from their bus. By the end of June, Serbian sources reported 70 missing, of whom nine have since been confirmed as dead while five have been freed.

One Serbian father told RFE/RL that Prishtina-based U.S. diplomats have been very sympathetic and helpful to him in trying to find his son. The man added that Kosovar Albanian politicians also opened their doors to him but told him that they have no influence with the UCK. The father stressed, however, that Serbian officials treated him in the arrogant and off-handed manner typical of communist-era bureaucrats. He said he wants nothing more to do with them.

Our Newest Affiliate. An increasing number of radio stations in Serbia and Montenegro have indicated an interest in carrying RFE/RL's programming. The newest affiliate is Radio 021 in Novi Sad, which takes one hour each evening, seven days a week.