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OMRI Pursuing Balkan Peace, No. 38, 96-09-24

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Open Media Research Institute <http://www.omri.cz>

Pursuing Balkan Peace
No. 38, 24 September 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] BOSNIAN VOTE TALLY THROWN OUT...
  • [02] ...BUT IZETBEGOVIC DECLARED HEAD OF BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY IN RECOUNT.
  • [03] DOUBTS STILL GROW ABOUT BOSNIAN ELECTIONS.
  • [04] WHAT KIND OF STATE WILL THIS BE?
  • [05] ROW BUILDING UP OVER BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY.
  • [06] ELECTION SOUND-BITES.
  • [07] BOSNIAN SERB LEADERSHIP SAYS IZETBEGOVIC WON THROUGH "MANIPULATION."
  • [08] SANDZAK MUSLIM LEADER CONSIDERS ELECTIONS POSITIVE.
  • [09] HAGUE TRIBUNAL CHIEF BLASTS NATO FOR NOT ARRESTING WAR CRIMINALS.
  • [10] CROATIA PROTESTS HAGUE TRIBUNAL'S ALLEGATIONS.
  • [11] JOINT EFFORTS OF GOVERNMENT AND SERBS IN SREBRENICA . . .
  • [12] . . . AND IN BELGRADE.
  • [13] MORE MUSLIM VILLAGERS TRY TO GO HOME DESPITE NATO AND THE SERBS.
  • [14] UN CRITICIZES CROATIA.
  • [15] SLOVENIA CHASES ASSETS.
  • [16] MACEDONIA TO BUY RUMP YUGOSLAV ARMS?
  • [17] BULGARIAN-GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER SIGN ACCORDS.
  • [18] ELECTION DAY IN BANJA LUKA.
  • [19] GERMANY SAYS BOSNIA IS READY FOR REFUGEES . . .
  • [20] . . . BUT NOT FOR MONEY.

  • [01] BOSNIAN VOTE TALLY THROWN OUT...

    On 22 September, the OSCE body supervising the 14 September Bosnian elections said it had withdrawn its earlier, tentative elections returns, international media reported. Spokesmen said there had been numerous computer mistakes and other technical errors, such as counting some polling stations' figures twice. Hrair Balian of the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG), which has been critical of the elections, called the tally "a royal mess," adding that the OSCE's conduct throughout the poll was "irresponsible" and that its mismanagement invited challenges from nationalists who wanted to discredit the entire electoral process. The ICG had earlier noted that the returns showed that 104% of the total electorate had voted, the International Herald Tribune reported on 21 September, while the Sunday Times the next day suggested that 107% of the Muslims had cast their ballots. The turnout in the 1990 elections was 74%. -- Patrick Moore

    [02] ...BUT IZETBEGOVIC DECLARED HEAD OF BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY IN RECOUNT.

    The OSCE nonetheless quickly backtracked and declared that a recount had shown Alija Izetbegovic after all to be the presidential candidate with the highest number of votes. What the OSCE called "preliminary final results" gave 731,024 votes to Izetbegovic, 690,130 to the Serbian candidate Momcilo Krajisnik, and 329,891 to the Croatian Kresimir Zubak, Reuters reported. (Izetbegovic's original margin of victory over Krajisnik had been 26,000 votes.) The biggest surprise in the presidential elections was the impressive showing of Serbian opposition candidate Mladen Ivanic, who took nearly one-third of the Serbian votes despite the virtual SDS monopoly on the media and on the police. His Alliance for Peace and Progress is close to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and had been subjected to a campaign of harassment and violence in the Republika Srpska (RS). For its part, the OSCE is not expected to announce final results before this Saturday, which is one week later than expected. After that takes place, the parties have 72 hours to register complaints, which the OSCE then has 72 hours to consider. Only then will it decide on the validity of the vote. The OSCE has been talking about holding municipal elections on 22-24 November, but the imbroglio surrounding the previous vote makes such an early date increasingly unlikely. Ten days after certification, the UN Security Council is expected to lift sanctions against Belgrade and Pale. Nasa Borba on 20 September, however, quoted American officials as saying that Washington wants to keep an "outer wall" of sanctions against rump Yugoslavia until basic rights are restored to the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo. In any event, OMRI's special correspondent reported from Sarajevo on 23 September that the OSCE has closed its press center there. -- Patrick Moore

    [03] DOUBTS STILL GROW ABOUT BOSNIAN ELECTIONS.

    The quick recount confirmed that the three nationalist parties won handily across the board, but more questions are being raised about how free and fair the ballot was. There does not appear to be any single example of gross fraud, but various violations continue to show up vote totals way in excess of the originally estimated 60-70% turnout, Reuters reported on 24 September. In some cases, the results hit new heights of 111% in what a spokesman for the NGO International Crisis Group called "a mathematical impossibility." Controls were lax, monitors were present at only a third of the stations, and one monitor told OMRI that IFOR seemed to regard the monitors as a nuisance. OMRI's special correspondent reports from Sarajevo that the OSCE may well say that the various sides' "dirty tricks" canceled each other out and that the vote was basically fair. -- Patrick Moore

    [04] WHAT KIND OF STATE WILL THIS BE?

    But once that is done, getting the three nationalist leaders to work together will be no easy task. Krajisnik and his Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) are on record as wanting the destruction of the Bosnian state and the unification of all Serbs in a greater Serbia. London's The Independent on 18 September quoted him as telling a crowd in Banja Luka that "our republic is like a beautiful 16-year-old girl with curly hair and blue eyes, the most beautiful creature that we will, if God permits, dress up and marry off into an alliance of Serb states." He nonetheless said later that same day that "the fact that we sought posts in the joint institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina shows that we are ready to work there and think that we can secure the rights of the Serb people. We want the joint institutions to be put in place as rapidly as possible," AFP noted, quoting SRNA. Zubak, whose Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) formally acknowledges the Bosnian state but at the same time openly favors union with Croatia, said he will work "for the full implementation of Dayton." Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA) is the most unambiguous of the three leading parties in its support for a united Bosnia- Herzegovina, but the party has a strong Islamic wing that would prefer a small "pure" state to a larger multi-ethnic one. In any event, Izetbegovic said: "I want to repeat my political goal. In short, it is the reunification of the country and justice in it" (see below). -- Patrick Moore

    [05] ROW BUILDING UP OVER BOSNIAN PRESIDENCY.

    That three-man collective presidency has yet to meet, but already differences have emerged between the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats that reflect the differences in the agendas between the three leading parties. On the issue of where that body will meet, Krajisnik said he fears for his safety in Sarajevo and offered Pale as an alternative, which is unacceptable to the Muslims and Croats. The Muslims earlier rejected a Serb proposal for a meeting place on the demarcation line, which the Muslims said would only underscore the division rather than the unity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. A second point involves the length of Izetbegovic's term as chairman, international media noted on 19 September. The Muslims say it should last two years, while Krajisnik wants each man to have eight-months in the office. Zubak, a lawyer, argues that the matter is not clear and will have to be discussed. A third issue is Izetbegovic's demand that Krajisnik take a loyalty oath to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Zubak, who could emerge as the key player in the new presidency, met separately with each of the other two men on 19 September to prepare the groundwork for a joint meeting. In what some observers see as reflecting a Serb-Croat deal that was allegedly struck before the elections, Zubak met with Krajisnik before he met with Izetbegovic. These observers note that the SDS and HDZ did not field candidates on each other's territory, unlike the SDA. In any event, Zubak told Radio Kragujevac that "it is [already] evident that there are certain differences of opinion" among the three members of the presidency. He stressed the importance of reciprocity, adding that the presidency president, the prime minister, and interior minister must be members of different nationalities, Onasa reported on 23 September. -- Patrick Moore

    [06] ELECTION SOUND-BITES.

    Even though, however, the current returns are not final, there have been many public reactions to the elections. By and large, the apparent winners have tried to sound statesmanlike, although Izetbegovic charged that the Muslim opposition had succumbed to "false ideas" if they thought they could discredit the SDA in the eyes of Muslim voters, Onasa reported on 19 September. He also noted that "we are not establishing the Islamic state or sharia. There are women who wear the veil but there are also women in mini-skirts. No-one is actually forcing anybody to dress in any way nor forcing anybody to pray the way that they don't want. We want to establish here a normal free state where of course Islam will have freedom to be practiced," AFP quoted him as saying. Nasa Borba, for its part, stressed that Izetbegovic wants a united country, noting that "this is Bosnia and not North and South Korea." Sejfudin Tokic, an official of the defeated anti-nationalist opposition Joint List, commented that "it is obvious that we had more of a national than a political declaration by the voters," Dnevni Avaz reported. Oslobodjenje commented that "if the Bosnians have elected the same national leaders who led them through the war, it means they have learned nothing and that they have the authorities whom they deserve." -- Patrick Moore

    [07] BOSNIAN SERB LEADERSHIP SAYS IZETBEGOVIC WON THROUGH "MANIPULATION."

    Turning to the Serbs, Republika Srpska Deputy Prime Minister Velibor Ostojic said on 18 September that Izetbegovic's election as president of the presidency was "the result of manipulation," AFP reported. Ostojic said the Serbs had had a "realistic expectation" that Krajisnik would win the highest number of votes, but he added that Republika Srpska would stand by the results. Bosnian Serb television waited more than six hours to announce that Izetbegovic will be Bosnia's president again. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [08] SANDZAK MUSLIM LEADER CONSIDERS ELECTIONS POSITIVE.

    But some observers found reason to take heart in the elections. The president of the Muslim National Council of Sandzak and leader of the SDA Sandzak, Sulejman Ugljanin, met with Izetbegovic in Sarajevo on 16 September. After the meeting he said "I am very satisfied with the organization and course of the Bosnian elections, which I think no one could have expected," Onasa reported. Ugljanin fled rump Yugoslavia in 1993 during a wave of arrests of SDA activists and has been living in Turkey since. The Sandzak is divided between Serbia and Montenegro and some of its Muslim leaders may hope to return to rump Yugoslav political life now that the war in Bosnia is over. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [09] HAGUE TRIBUNAL CHIEF BLASTS NATO FOR NOT ARRESTING WAR CRIMINALS.

    Turning to the subject of war crimes, Judge Richard Goldstone told The Independent on 17 September that both his court and international justice in general will be dealt a "fatal blow" if NATO fails to arrest indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic. Goldstone charged that IFOR commanders are primarily interested in self- preservation and avoiding risks and casualties. He noted that ordinary soldiers, however, "feel a tremendous frustration that they aren't able to go out and get [the war criminals]." They would arrest Karadzic and Mladic "tomorrow" if their officers would only give them orders to do so, the head of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) argued. He concluded that "there is no political will to make [international justice] work." -- Patrick Moore

    [10] CROATIA PROTESTS HAGUE TRIBUNAL'S ALLEGATIONS.

    Nor are the Serbs alone in the dock. Croatia protested on 14 September against allegations by the court that regular Croatian troops were directly involved in fighting in Bosnia during the Muslim-Croat war in 1993, local and international agencies reported. Foreign Minister Mate Granic warned in his letter to ICTY Chairman Antonio Cassese that allegations of Croatia's direct involvement in the Bosnia's conflict are untrue and could have far-reaching consequences for the peace process, the government-controlled daily Vjesnik reported the next day. The ICTY on 13 September confirmed its indictment of Ivica Rajic, a former Bosnian Croat general who later became a general in the Croatian army, and issued an international warrant for his arrest. The tribunal warned that it would report Croatia to the UN Security Council if Croatia failed to hand Rajic over to The Hague. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [11] JOINT EFFORTS OF GOVERNMENT AND SERBS IN SREBRENICA . . .

    And in Bosnia itself, government and Serbian forensic teams started on 17 September to work together for the first time on recovering the remains of hundreds of Muslims scattered on hillsides near Srebrenica, AFP reported. Up to 8,000 Muslim men are still unaccounted for after the former Muslim enclave was overrun by Bosnian Serbs in July 1995. The head of the Bosnian Serb commission for the return of POWs and missing persons, Dragan Bulajic, says the victims were soldiers, while his Bosnian counterpart, Amor Masovic, claims they were civilians. Later, international experts working at the nearby Pilica mass gravesite recovered 50 bodies, AFP reported on 23 September. Pilica is the fourth Srebrenica site to be excavated. Some 154 bodies were recovered at Cerska, 33 from Nova Kasaba and at least 58 from Lazete. Bosnian government experts are also working to recover bodies left in the open on the Kravice hillside. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [12] . . . AND IN BELGRADE.

    Meanwhile, technical experts from Belgrade and Sarajevo gathered on 17 September in Belgrade for a two-day meeting to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries, AFP reported. The talks come ahead of a meeting between presidents Milosevic and Izetbegovic that is scheduled soon in Paris, and will focus on implementation of the transport and communications agreement signed earlier between the two countries. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [13] MORE MUSLIM VILLAGERS TRY TO GO HOME DESPITE NATO AND THE SERBS.

    Tensions continue, however, and not just where the elections are concerned. IFOR on 21 September confiscated a dozen or so weapons found among a group of Muslims in the formerly Muslim village of Jusici. That village is now located in the RS but within a separation zone where weapons are banned, Oslobodjenje reported on 23 September. A similar incident took place recently at nearby Mahala, where Muslims returned to rebuild their homes, pointing out that the Dayton treaty guarantees them this right. Major Brett Boudreau said IFOR is waiting to see if Jusici was another "flash point" or if it indicated a legitimate return of Muslim villagers. It is difficult to see what difference this would make in practice, since IFOR has been unwilling to enforce the Dayton guarantees of freedom of movement and the right to go home. Other NATO sources were quoted by AFP as saying that moving armed people into sensitive areas was clearly "provocative" and should have been done in "phases." In any event, Bosnian Serb authorities then gave the Muslims an ultimatum to leave the next day or to be thrown out, but subsequently extended the deadline to 25 September, Reuters reported. The Muslims were quoted as saying they will stay in the village even if it means their death, AFP noted. In Prijedor, the Bosnian Serb authorities on 20 September sacked the police chief in keeping with a NATO ultimatum for his dismissal following an incident with IFOR troops earlier that week (see ), AFP said. In other news, the Serbs said they will boycott arbitration talks over the northern town of Brcko because the maps of the disputed region have not been made public, Oslobodjenje reported. The Serbs want the talks to cover only the question of the width of the corridor, while the Muslims want the town itself and its port to be up for discussion as well. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [14] UN CRITICIZES CROATIA.

    Moving outside Bosnia, the UN Security Council on 20 September criticized Croatia for "numerous incidents" in areas it has retaken from rebel Serbs, which, it said, are threatening efforts to reintegrate refugees and displaced persons, AFP reported. The UN expressed concern about the security of both Serbian refugees and human rights workers. Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, head of the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, welcomed the UN statement, particularly its references to the frequent attacks on and threats to human rights activists in Croatia. The Croatian parliament the same day adopted a law amnestying Serbs who fought against Croatia but excluding war criminals and those who violated human rights. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [15] SLOVENIA CHASES ASSETS.

    And on "the sunny side of the Alps," Slovenia has petitioned authorities to freeze assets held by nine French banks registered under the name of the former Yugoslavia. French authorities are expected to rule sometime "next week" on whether or not the assets, totaling an estimated $593 million, will be frozen, AFP reported on 18 September. The report also noted that Ljubljana "fears that the accounts... could be seized by rump Yugoslavia" and demands the banks "be required to account for movements of capital since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia." In a similar development earlier this summer, Ljubljana succeeded in winning a court order freezing Belgrade's assets in Cyprus, Nasa Borba first reported back on 22 July. -- Stan Markotich

    [16] MACEDONIA TO BUY RUMP YUGOSLAV ARMS?

    But Belgrade meanwhile may have ideas of its own regarding the joint assets, many of which were paid for by the wealthiest of the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia and Croatia. The Macedonian and rump Yugoslav defense ministers are to meet soon to discuss the possibility of Skopje's purchasing military wares from Belgrade, Onasa, citing Vecer, reported on 16 September. Belgrade appears to be "in a hurry to dispose of its arms surpluses" to meet conditions of the Dayton peace agreement. Rump Yugoslavia is reportedly barred from contemplating the destruction of part of its arms stocks, as they may become part of discussions among all states from the former Yugoslavia over assets. Belgrade may believe it has found a loophole by giving control of its surplus arms to Macedonia and possibly working toward a military cooperation agreement with Skopje, Vecer noted. -- Stan Markotich

    [17] BULGARIAN-GREEK FOREIGN MINISTER SIGN ACCORDS.

    Moving over to the eastern Balkans, Georgi Pirinski and Theodoros Pangalos, meeting in the Bulgarian town of Smoliyan on 19 September, signed two accords on the use of strategic water reserves and the opening of three new checkpoints, Reuters reported. Bulgaria is guaranteed 29% control over the average annual Maritsa River flow to Greece. According to Trud, Greece has controlled 80% of the flow until now owing to Bulgaria's lack of funds to construct new domestic water facilities. This accord ends a year-long dispute with roots going back even further. The three new checkpoints -- at Gotse Deltchev-Drama, Smoliyan-Xanti, and Kardzhali-Komotini -- are to be financed by the EU's Phare Program and Interreg II. Last week, Bulgaria began transit shipping Russian natural gas to Greece, which is the second country -- after Turkey -- to receive Russian gas via Bulgarian territory. -- Maria Koinova

    [18] ELECTION DAY IN BANJA LUKA.

    Returning to the Bosnian vote, elections in Banja Luka started at 7 am. People queued from early morning in front of most polling stations, talking of being really interested in the vote because they are fed up with war and conflict. In front of Rosulje polling station, around one hundred people of all ages had stood since 7. Asked what would be their greatest immediate wish, the waiting voters answered that besides peace, it was to save the Republika Srpska, and this could happen only with the help of the SDS. According to an OMRI source in that town, this fear of "loosing the RS" made most Serbs in this region accept the SDS, while there was only an extremely small number of people who wanted "to save Bosnia and Herzegovina" as a priority. "Brain-washing operations have perfectly succeeded here," said another OMRI contact. "In this region people have heard for six years that they can not live together with others, that the Serb people is endangered, that BiH will endanger it even more, and similar stupidities to which these people have been exposed daily."

    In front of another polling station, one daring citizen said: "Just as the people had accepted the [Tito-era] idea of 'brotherhood and unity' as something natural, they now accept the idea that they cannot live together with other ethnic groups. But to me it is the greatest surprise that it is the young people who seem to have so much negative energy in themselves, and that they are often the most outspoken in formulating this artificial hatred against others." Inside one polling station, a very young man asked loudly how come there was such a big number of "balije" (pejorative for Muslims) on the list of candidates.

    According to an OMRI source, Banja Luka people seem to have separated into three groups. First, there are those who are satisfied with the SDS victory to keep themselves in some sort of position. "They are the nationalists, chauvinists and other infatuated people who have only one goal: to belong to the Serb people," said an OMRI contact. Second, the largest number consists of the "brainwashed people who are unable to explain why they fear Bosnia and Herzegovina. They think of the Republika Srpska as the only safe haven for their mental system. Most of them really don't hate Muslims and Croats, even though they constantly claim that living together is impossible." Finally, there is the small number of people who had hoped that the elections will "introduce some common sense" again. -- Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo

    [19] GERMANY SAYS BOSNIA IS READY FOR REFUGEES . . .

    There have been calls for common sense from elsewhere, too, but despite harsh criticism from opposition parties, human rights groups, and also from within the governing coalition, the German federal and state Interior Ministers conference on 19 September agreed to begin forced repatriations of some 320, 000 Bosnian refugees as of 1 October. Domestic political and financial considerations appear to be at the bottom of the move, rather than any consideration for Bosnia or the Bosnian refugees.

    The decision was made even though the UNHCR had earlier called for a delay, saying that 60% of the refugees were Muslims from areas that were ethnically cleansed by Serbs and that it would be dangerous for them to return home, Reuters reported. Other critics pointed out that it could destabilize a fragile peace to force an influx of thousands of people into the country. The UNHCR representative in Germany, Judith Kumin, said it was too soon to send back refugees who did not want to go, adding that no Bosnian refugees should be sent back to homes in regions dominated by another ethnic group. And out of the just 22 regions which the UNHCR had singled out as safe for the return of refugees, even there 31,000 homes needed to be repaired before 185,000 people could return, said Kumin.

    Bavaria's Interior Minister Guenter Beckstein, however, said: "We know how hard rebuilding is. Looking at the situation in Bosnia, the possibilities are already much, much more favorable than they were for the Germans after WW2,"$ claiming that "military security has been completely established." Beckstein added that "there are safe areas for everyone in Bosnia within their respective ethnic groups," implying that he would not consider the successful implementation of the Dayton agreement a precondition for sending people back. Lower Saxony's Interior Minister Gerhard Glogowski argued that the peace process also required people to rebuild houses. Bosnia, however, already has an unemployed labor force of more than 700,000 people, many of them young former soldiers. Director of Bosnian Statistics Bureau Hasan Zolic said, moreover, that the real number may run as high as a million.

    The German ministers' plan foresees that single adults and childless couples are to be sent back first, followed by families in the summer of 1997. Differences, however, remain between the states, most of which announced they would not start forced expulsions anytime soon. Schleswig-Holstein's Interior Minister Ekkehard Wienholtz said his state would not send back anybody before 1 April at the earliest, adding that refugees should not be forced to leave while human rights abuses and massive resistance to returnees from different ethnic groups continued, and while there was still no effective administration to supervise their return.

    The opposition Greens and various human rights groups issued an appeal against the planed expulsions, saying "the victims of war and ethnic cleansing will just become victims once again -- this time of a conflict between Germany's federal, regional and local councils which is purely a matter of financial and domestic policy." The call was also joined by international community arbitrator and former Bonn government minister Christian Schwarz-Schilling, who called it "irresponsible" to send people back after 1 October, when the harsh Balkan winter has already set in, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on 19 September.

    Why, then, have the ministers agreed to the expulsions when there are so many arguments for at least a little more patience until conditions in Bosnia become more stable? The answer lies most likely in a combination of German domestic social, economic, and political factors. First, deep cuts must be made in social spending soon in order to help Germany meet conditions for joining a common European currency union. Within this context it is politically tempting to reduce spending on refugees, since they are not German citizens and cannot vote. Second, at a time of increasing social and economic insecurity in Germany, foreigners make a convenient target, and the deportations will go down well with certain segments of the electorate. Finally, the CDU and its Bavarian affiliate the CSU -- the two largest governing parties -- may find it tempting to take a hard line on foreigners, since such a stance will help them compete with the Republicans and other extremist parties for the anti-foreigner vote. In short, the considerations behind the ministers' decision are more German than Bosnian, but it is Bosnians who will have to bear the burden of it. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [20] . . . BUT NOT FOR MONEY.

    The German authorities appear, however, to be contradicting themselves. Finance Minister Theo Waigel (CSU) said on 23 September that sending the refugees home is a necessary and "clear signal." He added nonetheless that Bosnia is not yet ready for a massive influx of funds for rebuilding, AFP reported. Waigel said that there is in fact enough money, but "the conditions on the ground to start work" are not in place. Some other branches of the German government, however, have been acting on Bosnian issues on a more serious basis. Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said on 23 September that a new international peacekeeping mandate should last one or even a maximum of two years, Reuters reported. Ruehe has already pledged Bonn's support for a new mission of UN and NATO forces in Bosnia, but at first limited himself to a one- year mandate. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    Compiled by Patrick Moore


    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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