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News: Mon, 15 Apr 1996

From: ErkocevicM@AOL.COM

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory

CONTENTS

  • [01] Over 15,000 Bosnian Muslims held a peaceful rally

  • [02] U.S. aerial surveillance shows suspected mass grave sites

  • [03] Former Bosnian prime minister Haris Silajdzic formed a new political party

  • [04] Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic lashed out at an opposition party

  • [05] Bosnian Moslem and Croat deputies failed on Friday to agree on a flag


  • [01] Over 15,000 Bosnian Muslims held a peaceful rally

    BRKA, Bosnia - Over 15,000 Bosnian Muslims held a peaceful rally on the former front line Sunday demanding to return to their homes in nearby Serb-held Brcko, where they formed a majority before the war.

    Under the peace agreement that ended the fighting, Brcko, a key northeastern town, remained disputed and its fate is to be resolved within a year by international arbitration.

    Senior Bosnian officials, including acting President Ejup Ganic, attended the rally. No NATO peacekeeping troops were present but two U.S. helicopters flew overhead.

    Protesters, carrying banners reading ``Brcko is ours,'' ``Brcko is not Serbia'' and ``No one else can be happy in MY house'' gathered on a snow-covered meadow in Muslim-controlled Brka, three miles south of Brcko.

    Over 20,000 Muslim exiles from Brcko have been housed in the vicinity of Brka for more than three years.

    ``There is no peace without Brcko,'' Ganic told protestors, drawing a big applause from the motley crowd, most of whom looked well-dressed and cheerful. ``We want (Bosnian) Serb children to grow up in peace, in Bosnia,'' Ganic said.

    Brcko Serbs fear an influx of Muslims and Croats would tip the ethnic balance and jeopardise Serb control of the crucial Brcko corridor which links Serb lands in the west and east of Bosnia with neighboring Serbia.

    As a result, separatist Bosnian Serb authorities have packed Brcko wth Serb refugees from federation territory in a bid to influence the arbitration ruling. Many of these refugees are occupying vacant Muslim and Croat homes.

    ``Brcko is the town of all its citizens, regardless of faith or nationality,'' said Sabrija Slomic, an organiser of the rally. He sent Easter greetings to all the Serbs, who are Orthodox Christians.

    Carl Bildt, international high representative in Bosnia, describes Brcko as the most difficult test for the success of the peace treaty. He has criticised Serb authorities for moving refugees into the area prior to arbitration.

    Brcko, a port on the Sava River border with Croatia, was the scene of some of the worst attrocities in the war. Non-Serb prisoners were tortured and killed at Brcko's detention camp and thousands expelled.

    Ganic said mass graves in the area contained at least 7,000 bodies of Croat and Muslim civilians.

    Under the Bosnia peace treaty reached in Dayton, Ohio, the parties agreed to demilitarize frontlines, release prisoners, allow freedom of movement and the return of all refugees. But few people have returned so far.

    ``The Dayton accord is only a cease-fire, not peace, as long as the issue of Brcko is not resolved,'' Bosnian member of parliament Mirsad Dzapo from Brcko said.

    Last month Serbs in Brcko shouted abuse at a group of Muslims escorted into Brcko by NATO troops and forced them to cut short the first visit in four years to the local cemetery.

    [02] U.S. aerial surveillance shows suspected mass grave sites

    SARAJEVO, April 14 - U.S. aerial surveillance shows suspected mass grave sites in Bosnian Serb territory may have been tampered with last autumn before the deployment of NATO peacekeeping troops, NATO sources said on Sunday.

    ``Whether there was substantial tampering is still a question. But we can say if tampering has taken place it took place before January,'' said a NATO source.

    NATO-led peacekeeping troops arrived in Bosnia in December to enforce the Dayton peace accord and had patrols in the vicinity of mass grave sites beginning in January.

    The possible tampering would have occurred sometime between September and October, the source said, referring obliquely to evidence from photos from U.S. aircraft monitoring the sites.

    A team of investigators from the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague spent the past week visiting suspected grave sites believed to contain the bodies of Moslem men executed by conquering Serb forces.

    The investigators told U.S. NATO officers they believed at least one site was disturbed sometime in the past several months but have refused to comment on the issue publicly.

    Apart from extensive aerial surveillance, the United States intercepted radio conversations between Bosnian Serb army officers and authorities in the Serbian capital Belgrade, relief officials say.

    [03] Former Bosnian prime minister Haris Silajdzic formed a new political party

    SARAJEVO, April 13 - Former Bosnian prime minister Haris Silajdzic formed a new political party on Saturday to contest countrywide elections scheduled for September and declared his candidacy for president.

    The move pits Silajdzic, 50, against Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and the country's ruling Moslem nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA), from which Silajdzic resigned in January when he stepped down as prime minister.

    A recent poll published by the Sarajevo magazine Dani identified Silajdzic as Bosnia's most popular politician.

    Forty percent of those polled, all of whom lived in urban areas controlled by the Bosnian government, preferred Silajdzic as compared to 26 percent for Izetbegovic.

    Silajdzic was the star of Saturday's ``Party for BH'' convention. A unanimous show of hands among about 1,000 people present proclaimed him their candidate for president.

    Elections are a requirement under the Dayton peace agreement which brought an end to 43 months of war in Bosnia late in 1995.

    International mediators have voiced some reservations about whether the conditions for free and fair elections will be in place in time for the contest to be held.

    Silajdzic's prospects depend greatly on the international community's ability to enforce a provision in the Dayton accord calling for media access for political parties and candidates.

    To capitalise on his personal popularity the former prime minister would also have to abandon a penchant for performing as a solo political act and create an organisation with the depth and muscle to compete against Izetbegovic's SDA.

    Saturday's Party for BH convention was conducted with an impressive degree of verve and precision and included a short film about Bosnia, the party and Haris Silajdzic.

    The former prime minister told party members peace has brought Bosnia to a critical juncture where its integrity and sovereignty are no less threatened than they were during war.

    He was referring to deepening problems getting political representatives of Bosnia's Moslem, Croat and Serb communities to faithfully implement the Dayton peace accords which call for a single, integrated country.

    ``If the international community does not accept seriously Bosnia-Herzegovina as a united, sovereign country, in this case it will lead to disintegration,'' Silajdzic said.

    ``This, unfortunately, is going on now, de facto, on the ground...I am afraid that this disharmony between what's happening on the ground and what we want for Bosnia-Herzegovina could be resolved by war.''

    Born into a prominent Moslem clerical family in Sarajevo, Haris Silajdzic was foreign minister in the Bosnian government when war broke out in April 1992.

    Fluent in English, Arabic and Bosnian, he quickly established himself on the international stage as the most eloquent defender of his country's multi-ethnic tradition.

    When Silajdzic was named prime minister in 1993 he moved, at considerable personal risk, to rid Sarajevo of a number of Moslem warlords who were terrorising the capital.

    A dispute with the party in the summer of 1995 led Silajdzic to resign as prime minister. He was soon persuaded to withdraw the resignation and went on to play a crucial role, with Izetbegovic, in the Dayton peace negotiations.

    [04] Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic lashed out at an opposition party

    SARAJEVO, April 15 - Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic lashed out at an opposition party formed by his former prime minister, saying it was spreading ``lies'' to try to wrest power from his government.

    In his first major address since his convalescence in hospital for heart problems, Izetbegovic heavily criticised the ``Party for BH'' founded by ex-prime minister Haris Silajdzic in Sarajevo on Saturday.

    His attack showed that he was taking the opposition effort seriously ahead of elections tentatively scheduled for September under terms of the Dayton peace agreement which ended Bosnia's civil war.

    Although he never mentioned Silajdzic's party by name, Izetbegovic clearly had it in mind when he accused the opposition of only emphasising problems related to the end of the war.

    Speaking at a rally in a football stadium in the central town of Zenica, he said opposition leaders should credit his ruling Moslem nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) party for preventing Bosnia's extinction.

    ``They do not say that peace has come. People are not being killed anymore. The dying has stopped. Half of Bosnia has been defended,'' the state BH news agency quoted him as saying.

    ``A strong army was created almost from nothing...The Bosniak (Moslem) nation was saved from extinction...They remain silent on these very important facts,''

    A poll of urban areas under government control identified Silajdzic, 50, as Bosnia's most popular politician but he faces a formidable task in taking on the high-organised and well-funded SDA, which controls access to state media.

    Izetbegovic said the opposition was creating ``bad will'' based on an assumption that foreign troops enforcing the peace ``opened up some chances for them.''

    ``They are cheating themselves because in the end at election time the people will decide -- not foreigners,'' he said.

    Silajdzic, as foreign minister when the war broke out four years ago, established himself on the international stage as an eloquent defender of Bosnia's multi-ethnic tradition.

    He is expected to campaign against what he sees as the SDA's increasingly narrow Moslem nationalist vision.

    Izetbegovic, who has strong support in rural areas, seemed to be playing on a perception by some that the cosmopolitan Silajdzic was out of touch with ordinary people.

    He said his Moslem nationalist party, from which Silajdzic resigned in January, deserved praise for leading Bosnia's break from Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia.

    ``If there had been no SDA, Bosnia today would be a province of a Greater Serbia or it would be destroyed,'' he said.

    He accused the opposition of trying to distract voters from what he called the SDA's achievements. ``Lies and half-truths serve as a means in fighting for power,'' he said.

    Izetbegovic sought to reject criticism that his party was building a state only for Moslems and concluded his speech with an appeal for reconciliation towards war-time enemies.

    ``Whoever loves Bosnia cannot hate that word, because there is no Bosnia without reconciliation,'' he said. ``Please get used to that word. Chase war criminals to the end but forgive common people one day.''

    [05] Bosnian Moslem and Croat deputies failed on Friday to agree on a flag

    SARAJEVO, April 12 - Bosnian Moslem and Croat deputies failed on Friday to agree on a flag and coat of arms for their federation after hours of debate over procedures and national symbols.

    Two proposed flags were put to a vote during a televised session of parliament. Moslem deputies approved the proposals while Croat deputies rejected them.

    The Croat politicians said the flags only displayed a fragment of their national symbol, the red-white chequerboard Sahovnica, while displaying the Bosnian lily as a whole.

    Unable to come to an agreement, deputies decided to form a commission which would review proposals and the parliament planned to vote again at its next session in about two weeks.

    The dispute over the flag was the lastest illustration of political divisions in the shaky Moslem-Croat federation that have persisted despite an internationally-brokered accord struck 10 days ago in Sarajevo to boost the alliance.

    The federation was founded in 1994 in a U.S.-brokered agreement that ended a 10- month Moslem-Croat war.

    Croat and Moslem leaders have failed to make good on promises to breathe life into the political alliance, which together with a Serb entity comprises post-war Bosnia.

    At one point during Friday's debate, a frustrated Moslem deputy, Enver Kreso, proposed a flag design to represent the troubled state of the federation -- a white banner with a black question mark.

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