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Balkan Report: September 10, 1997

10 September 1997, Volume 1, Number 7

SFOR Blocks Coup Against Plavsic. There were all the hallmarks of the typical "meeting" that Serbian political leader Slobodan Milosevic and his allies have used for ten years in order to destroy their political enemies by using the power of the streets. Buses from near and far brought in angry, nationalistic supporters. The crowds displayed slogans and posters against the object of their wrath, in this case Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic. She demands that the rule of law prevail in the Bosnian Serb state and opposes Radovan Karadzic and his hard-liners, who reject the Dayton agreement. The occasion was a rally called by the Republika Srpska's governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which is now firmly in Karadzic's hands. The place was Banja Luka, where Plavsic has her headquarters. The time was the week before the Bosnia-wide local elections slated for September 13-14.

But this was no ordinary election rally. British troops in the Banja Luka area learned that the Karadzic faction intended to stage a coup against Plavsic, and that the crowds on the buses were an essential component of the plan. SFOR accordingly blocked the route of the buses, which eventually returned to eastern Bosnia, but only after some of the occupants stoned NATO peacekeepers.

In Banja Luka itself, SFOR had identified Karadzic's agents who had slipped into town to take control of key buildings before the rally that never took place. In the night of September 8-9, Plavsic's police, for their part, surrounded the hotel where Momcilo Krajisnik, Gojko Klickovic, Dragan Kijac, and other of Karadzic's chief allies were staying.

Meanwhile in Pale, SFOR commander Gen. Eric Shinseki told the hard-liners to honor their recent pledge to have TV Pale broadcast materials supplied by the international community. The hard-liners had refused to honor their agreement and said they will not submit to "international censorship."

RFE/RL Looks at the Reasons Behind the Violence. The hard-liners may be using tactics that worked well for them earlier, but RFE/RL pointed out on September 9 that the circumstances have changed and that the outcome now is accordingly different. One big change is that SFOR is present and willing to use its muscle to help Plavsic. The peacekeepers helped save her from a coup attempt on more than one occasion this year.

But the hard-liners have been increasingly bellicose in recent weeks (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," September 3, 1997). An opposition leader in Banja Luka told RFE/RL on September 8 that the aggressiveness of Karadzic's followers in Brcko, Doboj, and now Banja Luka reflects, in fact, "the death throes of a moribund political system." The rift between Karadzic and Plavsic has led to a deep crisis in the Republika Srpska and to a split in the SDS and the government alike. The aggressive "meetings" will not end the hard-liners' problems, however, but only serve to show how serious those problems have become.

The opposition leader told RFE/RL that he hopes that a political solution to these political problems will materialize. He added, however, that there is always a chance that situations involving violent incidents can get out of control.