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OMRI: PURSUING BALKAN PEACE, V1,#14, Apr. 9, 1996

From: OMRI-L <omri-l@ubvm.cc.buffalo.edu>

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory

CONTENTS

  • [01] HAGUE TRIBUNAL REPORTS RUMP YUGOSLAVIA TO SECURITY COUNCIL.

  • [02] WAR CRIMES UPDATE.

  • [03] SHALIKASHVILI SAYS U.S. TROOPS WILL NOT PURSUE WAR CRIMINALS.

  • [04] KARADZIC PICKED TO NEGOTIATE WITH INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.

  • [05] KARADZIC TURNS DOWN OFFER OF ASYLUM FROM MONASTERY?

  • [06] ANTI-NATIONALIST SERBS SAY SARAJEVO CAN STILL BE MULTIETHNIC.

  • [07] ROW OVER DECLARATION ON BOSNIAN UNITY.

  • [08] ELECTION CAMPAIGN ACTIVITIES PROCEED APACE.

  • [09] BILDT WARNS ABOUT SOCIAL UNREST.

  • [10] BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER PROTESTS TO BILDT OVER PRISONER ISSUE.

  • [11] UPDATE ON PRISONERS...

  • [12] ...AND ON REFUGEES.

  • [13] IFOR SAYS NO MORE ILLEGAL CHECKPOINTS IN BOSNIA.

  • [14] "BRITAIN'S SECRET WAR IN BOSNIA."

  • [15] CROATIA ARRESTS FOUR BOSNIANS ON TERRORISM CHARGES.

  • [16] FALL IN CONFIDENCE IN THE BOSNIAN DINAR.

  • [17] BOSNIA BECOMES A MEMBER OF THE WORLD BANK...

  • [18] ...AND SIGN AN AGREEMENT WORTH $269 MILLION.

  • [19] ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS DOMINATE THE SCENE.

  • [20] BANKING IN BOSNIA.

  • [21] MASS GRAVES: "EXPERT KNOWLEDGE IS APOLITICAL"


  • OMRI SPECIAL REPORT: PURSUING BALKAN PEACE

    Vol. 1, No. 14, 9 APRIL 1996

    [01] HAGUE TRIBUNAL REPORTS RUMP YUGOSLAVIA TO SECURITY COUNCIL.

    The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has reaffirmed that it regards rump Yugoslavia as "criminal" and will formally ask the highest UN body to take action against it. The issue is that Belgrade continues to harbor three Serbian army officers who against whom the court has issued arrest warrants. The three are wanted in conjunction with the murder of 261 non-Serbs in the Croatian town of Vukovar after it fell in November 1991, Nasa Borba and the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on 4 April. Also in The Hague, Croatian Gen. Tihomir Blaskic pleaded "not guilty" in conjunction with the massacre of Muslim civilians in the Lasva valley in 1993, Novi list wrote. He is staying in an apartment under strict confinement, having given himself up voluntarily. The bill for his flat is expected to be paid by Bosnian Croats. The court meanwhile returned Bosnian Serb Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic to Sarajevo, where he faces a possible trial for crimes against humanity, Slobodna Dalmacija reported. The Hague tribunal had concluded it did not have enough evidence to charge him. -- Patrick Moore

    [02] WAR CRIMES UPDATE.

    Also in Bosnia, Serbian pathologists have spent some days examining the bodies of at least 181 people from mass graves near Mrkonjic Grad in western Bosnia (see below). The area had been held by Bosnian Serb forces for most of the war but fell to Croatian units last fall. Doctors now say that some 102 out of the 181 show evidence of having been beaten to death, Nasa Borba reported on 9 April. In eastern Bosnia, a team from the UN is continuing to investigate some 12 mass grave sites. The Christian Science Monitor and the Independent reported on 3 April, however, that the Serbs are quickly trying to get rid of the evidence. Bodies are being removed from graves already identified, and the remains of clothes and shoes seen earlier at some sites by the Monitor's David Rohde are now gone. In Geneva, an expert with the UN human rights commission said that most of the 30,000 persons listed as missing in the former Yugoslavia are probably dead and in such mass graves. AFP quoted him a saying on 3 April that more than 50 mass graves have been identified in the former Serb-held areas of Croatia and that an additional 300 are in Bosnia. -- Patrick Moore

    [03] SHALIKASHVILI SAYS U.S. TROOPS WILL NOT PURSUE WAR CRIMINALS.

    But one thing the war criminals still on the loose apparently won't have to worry about too much is being hunted down by the American military. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili said that he is "comfortable" with NATO's planned withdrawal from Bosnia at the end of the year. He added that one year will be enough to tell whether the people in the area are serious about peace, AFP quoted the Washington Post as saying on 3 April. A debate is on in the U.S. and elsewhere as to whether the one-year mandate for IFOR will be sufficient, and the daily noted that the U.S. commander on the ground, Adm. Leighton Smith, has not ruled out an extension. Shalikashvili also opposed any American hunt for Bosnian war criminals: "absolutely, I'm against it." He said that it is the duty of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to bring the indicted Bosnian Serbs to justice, and that people like President Radovan Karadzic will be out of office after the upcoming elections. -- Patrick Moore

    [04] KARADZIC PICKED TO NEGOTIATE WITH INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.

    Not, however, if some politicians in the Republika Srpska (RS) have anything to say about it (see OMRI Special Report, 2 April 1996). The Bosnian Serb parliament wrapped up its latest session in the early hours of 3 April, AFP reported. It selected Karadzic to head a committee to represent the Bosnian Serbs in talks with the international community. He said that the committee was "indispensable" due to "the numerous attempts being made to interpret the Dayton accords to the Serbs' detriment." Karadzic singled out the idea of the unity of Bosnia for special criticism. He added that his heading the committee was "in line with the constitution of the [Republika Srpska] under which the president of the republic represents the state." The international community does not, however, have anything to do with Karadzic, because he is an indicted war criminal. And under the terms of an agreement between Pale and Belgrade last August, Milosevic alone represents the Bosnian Serbs in such talks. The parliament also passed some additional measures, but said that the controversial amnesty bill will be submitted to public discussion. The legislators also postponed any decision on moving the capital of the RS from Pale to Banja Luka. -- Patrick Moore

    [05] KARADZIC TURNS DOWN OFFER OF ASYLUM FROM MONASTERY?

    Karadzic, in anyevent, is apparently confident about his future and has reportedly declined an offer of refuge from a Serbian Orthodox monastery on Mt. Athos, which enjoys extraterritorial status. "The leadership of the church" proposed that the internationally wanted war criminal become a monk there, AFP on 5 April quoted the Montenegrin weekly Monitor as saying. Karadzic, a licensed psychiatrist, reportedly stated that he intends to set up a private mental hospital with his wife, who is a doctor, and his daughter, who studies medicine. -- Patrick Moore

    [06] ANTI-NATIONALIST SERBS SAY SARAJEVO CAN STILL BE MULTIETHNIC.

    Other Bosnian Serb political figures have been active as well. Bosnian Presidency member Mirko Pejanovic, said that the capital could still be multiethnic because many Serbs are interested in coming back. He argued that the main obstacles are the Serbian nationalist "war criminals" in Pale and "the state apparatus of local authorities" in Sarajevo, Onasa reported on 2 April. He heads the Serbian Civic Council (SGV), which remained loyal to the Bosnian government throughout the war. The SGV has been active in persuading Serbs to stay in Sarajevo or to return there. -- Patrick Moore

    [07] ROW OVER DECLARATION ON BOSNIAN UNITY.

    Still in the capital, some 21 political parties and organizations signed a statement backing the indivisibility of the republic, Oslobodjenje wrote on 4 April. Most of the groups are Muslim -- including President Alija Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA)-- but the SGV and representatives of the Jewish community also signed. The five main opposition parties in parliament nonetheless balked, charging that they had not been consulted by Izetbegovic and his former Prime Minister, Haris Silajdzic. The largest Bosnian Croat party also did not sign the resolution sponsored by the two men. The apparent rapprochement between the president and his estranged former prime minister is the subject of much speculation in Bosnia, Vjesnik reported on 3 April. Izetbegovic nonetheless charged that Silajdzic's founding of his own party could split the Muslim vote, Oslobodjenje added on 7 April. -- Patrick Moore

    [08] ELECTION CAMPAIGN ACTIVITIES PROCEED APACE.

    And there are many other indications that electioneering is in full swing. Bosnian state television on 2 April presented a story on DM 100,000 worth of aid distributed by the ruling SDA to the families of Bosnian Army soldiers killed in Gorazde. At the press conference there the next day, SDA Vice President Edhem Bicakcic said that all refugees must return to their homes, and accused everyone who does not share this attitude of working against the SDA. Bicakcic said Gorazde will be a major test for the the government, Oslobodjenje reported on 4 April. In another development, the same daily claimed that SiIajdzic is trying to recruit the mayor of Konjic for his new Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Silajdzic was also reported as joining Sarajevo citizens and refugees housed there to clean up garbage and dirt from one of the city's suburbs "For now: less politics and more work," Oslobodjenje quoted him as saying. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

    [09] BILDT WARNS ABOUT SOCIAL UNREST.

    Turning to social issues, the international community's High Representative in Bosnia, Carl Bildt, said that economic assistance will be vital to curb unemployment, especially for tens of thousands of demobilized men, AFP reported on 2 April. He also said that war criminals must be brought to justice and the multi-ethnic nature of Bosnia preserved, the International Herald Tribune and Nasa Borba added on 3 April. -- Patrick Moore

    [10] BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER PROTESTS TO BILDT OVER PRISONER ISSUE.

    Hasan Muratovic, for his part, on 31 March wrote a letter to Bildt, protesting an earlier request that the Bosnian government release its remaining prisoners of war and accusing him of thereby promoting tensions among Bosnians, Oslobodjenje and Dnevni avaz reported the next day. The Dayton agreement says that POW's were to have been freed long ago, but the three sides are allowed to keep suspected war criminals for investigation. Commenting on the 30 March meeting of the Joint International Commission (JIC) in Banja Luka, where Bildt linked economic reconstruction of the country with releasing POW's, Muratovic said that such attitudes are very damaging, both politically and economically. Muratovic asked Bildt to "stop misinforming" the international community about the "war criminals" whom the Bosnian authorities are holding, and also to stop linking the forthcoming donors' conference with the issue. "We do not sell war criminals nor [our] right to prosecute them," Oslobodjenje quoted him as saying. In addition, he objected to Bildt's request for reconstruction aid for the RS. He pointed that both the international community and the Bosnian government have underscored that Pale should get only humanitarian aid and help in reconstructing a basic infrastructure to be shared by both Bosnian entities. More assistance will come only when the present ruling elite represented by Karadzic and Mladic is replaced and minimal conditions for the protection of human rights are created, Muratovic concluded. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

    [11] UPDATE ON PRISONERS...

    An International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) spokesman said on 1 April the Bosnian Serbs from Banja Luka have released some 15-20 prisoners of war, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. On 5 April, government forces freed 18 POW's while the Croats released 28, Onasa stated. Meanwhile, a delegation of the Bosnian State Commission for missing persons went to Serbia to visit a camp where some 300 Bosnians have been detained. Amor Masovic, the State Commission president, said he will request their release from the Serbian authorities and their transfer to Bosnia, Oslobodjenje reported on 2 April. In an unrelated development, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said on 31 March that German aid for the reconstruction of the Bosnian Federation will be conditional on the release of all prisoners of war. In Strbac, Serbs and Croats exchanged a total of 31 prisoners, Croatian and Serbian radios noted on 2 April. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo and Patrick Moore

    [12] ...AND ON REFUGEES.

    The picture regarding the return of refugees also continues to be mixed. Onasa said on 3 April that some 18,000 people have gone from the Kuplensko camp in Croatia back to the Bihac area in northwest Bosnia. They are mainly followers of local kingpin Fikret Abdic and fled in the wake of the Croat-Muslim advance last year. In the case of these refugees, it is not a matter of their wanting to go home and being blocked by the local authorities, but rather one of the authorities and international officials trying to convince them that it is safe to go home. Some 6,000 pro-Abdic refugees are still in Kuplensko, which will close soon. Those who continue to refuse to go home will be sent to other camps in the area. Meanwhile in Switzerland, officials said they would soon begin to repatriate some 21,000 refugees to Bosnia. The project will be carried out in stages and end in August 1997. Single people and childless couples will go first, Reuters reported on 3 April. The first group of Bosnians to go home from anywhere in Europe under UNHCR auspices left Gabcikovo in Slovakia on 20 March. Those 77 people included both the young and the elderly, and both single people and those with children, the UNHCR told OMRI. -- Patrick Moore

    [13] IFOR SAYS NO MORE ILLEGAL CHECKPOINTS IN BOSNIA.

    Another question central to Dayton is freedom of movement, which has been threatened by the continued presence of checkpoints, which are now illegal. NATO peacekeepers said that all fixed control posts have been removed in northwest Bosnia around Banja Luka, Prijedor, and Bihac, and in central Bosnia around Travnik. Mobile checkpoints are still allowed provided they do not stay in one place for more than 30 minutes, Onasa news agency reported on 4 April. It is not clear what has happened to the control posts around Mostar in Herzegovina. The Dayton treaty is quite specific about the need for freedom of movement across Bosnia, but IFOR at first said it would not do "police work," even though the international police force was greatly understaffed and unable to do its job. IFOR recently changed its position and has removed checkpoints. -- Patrick Moore

    [14] "BRITAIN'S SECRET WAR IN BOSNIA."

    This is the headline of an article that appeared in the Guardian on 2 April, which suggests that some of the Western military in Bosnia between 1993 and 1995 have been doing a lot more than clearing roadblocks. "British soldiers... fought a covert war against all three sides, killing Croat, Muslim, and Serb troops in far greater numbers than has been admitted by Whitehall officials." One SAS unit was surprised by a 15-strong Serb patrol near Gorazde in 1994 and "wiped out" the Serbs within a minute. That patrol was apparently part of a concerted NATO effort behind Serb lines that paved the way for the eventual bombing of Bosnian Serb territory. The British also used ambulances for intelligence work, prompting French troops to joke: "If you get injured, make sure it doesn't happen near one of those British ambulances." -- Patrick Moore

    [15] CROATIA ARRESTS FOUR BOSNIANS ON TERRORISM CHARGES.

    Meanwhile in Croatia, the Interior Ministry on 4 April arrested four armed Bosnians in the Adriatic town of Senj on suspicion that they intended to carry out terrorist activities in Croatia, Vjesnik said on 8 April. The four reportedly had documents from the Bosnian Interior Ministry in Bihac, and speculation centers on the possibility that they may have been sent to assassinate former Bihac kingpin Fikret Abdic. The renegade Muslim leader has been living quietly in Croatia since last fall, after Croatian and Bosnian government forces put an end to his self-declared mini-state, which had become a client of the Krajina Serbs. Abdic is currently based in Rijeka, just to the north of Senj. -- Patrick Moore

    [16] FALL IN CONFIDENCE IN THE BOSNIAN DINAR.

    Turning to economic issues, Oslobodjenje on 9 April discussed concern over the rapid loss in value of the Bosnian dinar. A rise in the legal limits on personal income and recent large payments to workers in state enterprises led to the fall in confidence in the currency, Vjesnik wrote. The Croatian paper added that most Bosnians live on their own hard-currency holdings or on help from abroad, and regard the Bosnian dinar as little better than "Monopoly money." -- Patrick Moore

    [17] BOSNIA BECOMES A MEMBER OF THE WORLD BANK...

    On a more positive note, the president of the World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn, and the Prime Minister Muratovic on 1 April signed an agreement on Bosnia's membership in the World Bank, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. Bosnia became a candidate for full membership at the end of 1992, and meanwhile became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), thus fulfilling a basic condition to join the World Bank. Unofficial sources say a debt of $400 million to the Bank, which Bosnia inherited as one of the former Yugoslav republics, will be reprogrammed for a period of 30 years. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

    [18] ...AND SIGN AN AGREEMENT WORTH $269 MILLION.

    Wolfensohn and federal Vice President Ejup Ganic the same day signed three agreements worth $269 million in credit. They cover emergency projects in agriculture, transportation and water supply, Oslobodjenje reported on 2 April. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung added that the money will be provided from a variety of European sources, including the EU and the Czech Republic, as well as from the Bank itself. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress on 29 March approved $198 million in reconstruction aid, Oslobodjenje reported the next day. President Bill Clinton said the this will enable the U.S. to mobilize wide international support for the economic revitalization of Bosnia at the forthcoming donors' conference in Brussels. Earlier the U.S. had made financial support to Bosnia conditional on the departure of foreign volunteers from the Bosnian army, and on faster development of the Federation. -- Daria Sito Sucic in Sarajevo

    [19] ECONOMIC DOLDRUMS DOMINATE THE SCENE.

    Aid, in whatever form, will be sorely needed. Some of the Bosnian Croat areas have been helped by their geographical proximity to Croatia and by their close links to the Croatian economy, but most of the republic is on its back. The economy is functioning at only a fraction of its prewar level, and the socially explosive picture will get worse as tens of thousands of men are demobilized on all sides (see OMRI Special Report, 2 April 1996).

    In Prijedor in the RS, for example, some factories are working at 15-20% capacity, but problems are expected to grow as demobilization proceeds. Agriculture is promising, but power and water supply situations in the surrounding areas vary. Some 50-90% of the houses in those villages have been destroyed. Train service has been restored between Bosanski Novi, Prijedor, Banja Luka, and Bosanski Samac, but service is irregular due to electricity breakdowns. There is also a shortage of passenger cars, most having been destroyed during the war. A new digital telephone exchange provides good connections even outside the RS, but there are no links to the Federation. A new phone extension costs DM 320.

    In Mostar, the Muslim east appears grim in comparison to the Croatian west. East Mostar has little money, and people have difficulty paying their electricity bills of DM 6 out of a salary of DM 79. The EU has invested DM 8 million in restoring production and supports 30 projects, but the economy is functioning at only about one-third capacity. Only 4,000 are employed out of a population of 50,000, with more demobilized soldiers on the way. Agriculture and reconstruction of homes are conducted mainly on an individual basis. A major need is a private bank to provide funds for all manner of development projects. -- Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo

    [20] BANKING IN BOSNIA.

    Before the war, the only 11 banks in the republic were state-owned and supervised by the Yugoslav National Bank in Belgrade, which then expropriated all assets of the banks in the "rebel" republics. Hence the majority of people lost their savings and the banks were in great debt. The new national governments in the former Yugoslav republics are working out some form of compensation for those who lost their money.

    In Bosnia, some 28 new banks have been founded, 17 of which are located in Sarajevo. The number of banks is expected to decline after 1 January 1997, when the minimum capital requirement will rise to DM 2.5 million. A Central Bank, meanwhile, exists only on paper and its future is uncertain.

    Much money was made by the new banks in handling cash transfers from abroad. Active personal accounts are generally limited to modest amounts, and banks prefer small companies as clients because of the low risk inherent in lending only small sums. Setting up infrastructure, conducting personnel training, and restoring links to the Swift system are basic tasks that have to be met.

    There are two basic types of banks, namely the old state-owned ones that are trying to restore their former position in the economy, and the new private ones, which are purely forward-looking. Few have developed a serious marketing strategy, although some are trying to project a profile. For example, SAB has the image of being dynamic, young, and Western; Gospodarska Banka, by contrast, is traditional and Croat; Vakufska Banka is something of its Islamic counterpart. All are negative in their attitudes toward banks in the Republika Srpska or on the prospects of setting up a unified banking system across all Bosnia.

    In Trebinje, Mayor Bozidar Vucurevic said that there are two major RS banks with branches in every municipality. The banks in his town, however, distribute paychecks but do not appear to take deposits. There are, finally, plans for a RS Central Bank. -- Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo

    [21] MASS GRAVES: "EXPERT KNOWLEDGE IS APOLITICAL"

    After two days of rain, low clouds hang over the Orthodox cemetery above Mrkonjic Grad, where a group of pathologists led by rump Yugoslav army experts are exhuming three large mass graves presumably containing more than 200 bodies. They were left in the ground after the offensive by the Croatian (HV) and Bosnian Croat (HVO) army units in September of 1995, when some of the fiercest fighting took place in the mountains surrounding this little town. Dozens of people stand in small groups near the entrance watching and talking quietly. Two young couples emerge crying, and hugging. A father of one and a brother of another had just been identified among the skeletons.

    The pungent and unavoidable stink of putrefaction hangs over the macabre scene. About 40 bodies are spread on canvas cloths, lined in three rows on the concrete floor. The cadavers are wrapped in dark plastic sheets that are caked with mud. It is not immediately apparent that all the bodies are lying with their heads in the same direction. When some of the mortuary aides check numbers, leaving the sheets open, the bits of clothing showing through provide no flashes of color. Every thing is muddy green. An old unshaven man walks along a small carriage pulled by a tired looking wet horse. They have brought five more bodies wrapped in plastic from the graveyard where workers in high rubber boots are widening the three large common graves. Two teams of pathologists examine the bodies and dictate descriptions to a stenographer. "No. 109, woman, 167 cms, white hair...." Some of the workers breathe through handkerchiefs, others, like the pathologists wear surgical masks.

    Most of the townspeople congregate around in front of a wall where the names of those identified have been entered on four pieces of paper. In a small building where workers are unloading coffins from a truck, pathologists are conducting more detailed forensic examinations. One of them, Dr. Zoran Stankovic is well known in Belgrade. He is also a colonel in the Yugoslav People's Army. "It is too early for serious conclusions," he said. "We will need one or two more days to end exhumations and about 10 more days to finish with the examination and documentation. Then we can say more. But what is clear already is that besides military people we have many civilians here, some of them very old and, so far, twelve women. The civilians have in most cases no wounds from splinters from larger explosions, which would imply that they could have died in an artillery attack. Most of them died from gunshots. We have yet to establish from what range they were shot. In the case of one soldier we have a clear indication that after being wounded in a leg, he died of two pistol shots from a close range to the back of his skull. We were glad to have had an investigator from the international war crimes tribunal with us at the beginning, but were disappointed when he left after two days to do similar work in Srebrenica. The mass graves have their political undertones. I think it would be a good idea if experts from all sides could do this together as a joint exercise that could not be misused." The physician's approach was professional, and even his statement shown on Banja Luka television the evening before was free of political explanations or propaganda.

    After five days of horrible work, 181 bodies were discovered and 89 of them identified. There are some suggestions that it was a special HV unit, the Zagreb-based "Tigers," that took this town and could have been responsible for burying the bodies in the mass graves.

    Meanwhile with the snow melting in the high ground, experts are concerned that the last chances may be fading to find the remains and identify many of the 27,000 persons missing after four years of war. Tony Birrey, a reporter for ABC, followed the mountain paths over which thousands of people had tried to escape from former "safe areas" as they were falling in Zepa and Srebrenica in July 1995 by attempting to cross the front lines. "At one place about three kilometers from a road between Bratunac and Konjevic Polje between 40 and 50 partially decomposed bodies lay in a forest."

    There are, moreover, serious allegations that some of the suspected mass graves near Srebrenica have been tampered with (see above). As many as 600 bodies of Srebrenica men said to have been massacred have reportedly disappeared from the sites. "It is high time that the Office of the High Representative of the UN Commission on Human Rights takes a lead in this," said one senior Bosnian official. "We need to move fast and in a way to prevent further political abuses. A joint forensic institute should bring together real experts from all sides who with international help would deal with the exhumation of mass graves and collection of the bodies from forests. Expert knowledge is apolitical." Dr. Stankovic would agree, but until politicians act, thousands of families will not have a chance to know the truth or finally mourn their dead. -- Jan Urban in Sarajevo


    Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

    This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in Prague, Czech Republic.
    For more information on OMRI publications please write to info@omri.cz

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