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Serbian FM Says Belgrade Would Defend Bosnian Serbs

Serbia has warned Bosnia-Herzegovina that it would defend the Bosnian Serbs if they were ever attacked as tensions are high ahead of a planned referendum in Republika Srpska that has been officially banned by Sarajevo.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in a statement on September 20 that Serbia will "certainly not allow the destruction of or a military attack" against Bosnia's autonomous Republika Srpska, created by a U.S.-brokered peace deal that divided Bosnia into two entities.

Dacic's comment came shortly after former wartime Bosnian Army commander Safer Halilovic said that without help from Belgrade, the Republika Srpska forces would not last more than 15 days against federal Bosnian troops.

The retired Halilovic was not in any official capacity when he made the comments to a local Bosnian TV station.

Dacic said Halilovic's statement "about the destruction of Republika Srpska represents the gravest threat to peace and stability in the region."

Tensions have been high in Bosnia-Herzegovina ahead of a referendum set for September 25 on whether Republika Srpska should celebrate its national day on January 9, the day in 1992 when it declared it was seceding from Bosnia.

The Bosnian wars -- pitting Bosniaks, ethnic Serbs, and Croats against each other -- broke out a few months later, leaving 100,000 people dead and millions others homeless in three years of fighting.

Bosnia's constitutional court has ruled the holiday discriminates against Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats and that the referendum is illegal.

Based on reporting by AP, B92, and Tanjug

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