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OMRI Pursuing Balkan Peace, No. 40, 96-10-08

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. 40, 8 October 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] BELGRADE AND SARAJEVO ESTABLISH FULL DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
  • [02] BOSNIAN SERBS BOYCOTT PRESIDENCY, PARLIAMENT.
  • [03] BOSNIAN SERB RULING PARTY LOSES TWO-THIRDS RS PARLIAMENT MAJORITY.
  • [04] CROATS LEAVE INAUGURAL SESSION OF SARAJEVO CANTONAL ASSEMBLY.
  • [05] BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS TO GO AHEAD IN NOVEMBER.
  • [06] BOSNIAN MUSLIMS AND CROATS AGREE ON ARMY JOINT COMMAND.
  • [07] MORE MUJAHEDEEN FOR BOSNIA?
  • [08] PENTAGON: U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA UNTIL MARCH.
  • [09] BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER URGES DONORS TO KEEP PROMISES . . .
  • [10] . . . AND ASKS IMF TO RESCHEDULE BOSNIAN DEBTS.
  • [11] JUSICI REFUGEES GO HOME.
  • [12] SECOND ATTACK ON BOSNIAN CROAT OPPOSITION POLITICIAN.
  • [13] MINERS END STRIKE THREAT.
  • [14] U.S. ENVOY DISCUSSES UN MANDATE IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.
  • [15] UN OFFERS TO BUY WEAPONS FROM CROATIAN SERBS.
  • [16] UN SECURITY COUNCIL LIFTS SANCTIONS AGAINST BELGRADE . . .
  • [17] . . . WHILE 'OUTER WALL' OF SANCTIONS REMAINS.
  • [18] IS AVRAMOVIC A REAL THREAT TO MILOSEVIC?
  • [19] POWER PLAY.

  • [01] BELGRADE AND SARAJEVO ESTABLISH FULL DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

    Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic agreed in Paris on 3 October that Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will exchange ambassadors. The move marks one more step toward restoring peace and normal relations to the region, but the process is still far from complete. The heads of the two former Yugoslav republics met in the French capital at the invitation of President Jacques Chirac. The French leader acted as mediator, thereby not only helping to secure the agreement but also to restore some of France's prestige in the region after nearly a year of American diplomatic preeminence.

    Izetbegovic and Milosevic also promised to institute visa-free travel, reestablish communications links, and promote mutual economic relations. They recognized the historic continuity of each other's respective states, while noting that the issue of legal succession to the former Yugoslavia will have to be settled in keeping with international norms and by the agreement of all concerned, Nasa Borba reported on 8 October. This means that before Milosevic's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia can achieve full international legitimacy as "Yugoslavia," the division of the assets and property of the former Yugoslavia will have to be settled to the satisfaction of all five successor states.

    The agreement is, moreover, peppered with words like "cooperation" and "friendship" and appears to be yet another step toward normalizing relations in the region. Each side made a major concession in the process. First, Sarajevo seems to have backed away from taking Belgrade to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide stemming from Serbia's role in the Bosnian war, Izetbegovic's subsequent denials that this is the case notwithstanding. This appears evident from the passage in the agreement that each side will refrain from "political and legal acts which do not contribute to the improvement of friendly relations and cooperation." Secondly, federal Yugoslavia agreed to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbor, thereby implicitly repudiating the idea of a greater Serbia that would include Bosnian territory.

    Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic consequently issued a communique on 4 October blasting Milosevic as having betrayed the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia, AFP reported. This is not the first time that the Bosnian Serb leadership has accused him of treason, and Pale had also made it clear on the eve on the Paris meeting that it felt that a deal was being made at the Bosnian Serbs' expense.

    Media commentary suggests, however, that Milosevic's eye was not on the Bosnian Serbs but on his own voters. They go to the polls in general elections next month and are concerned chiefly with bread-and-butter issues. He recently secured some political capital with them when the UN voted to lift sanctions against Belgrade as a result of his support for the Dayton agreement. Milosevic will likely present the normalization of relations with Sarajevo to the voters as one more example of his new-found commitment to peace and prosperity. Meanwhile, a number of questions remain regarding the new agreement. Will the parties make good on their pledges, or will this be just one more example of promises made and immediately broken? Even if Sarajevo and Belgrade try to follow through, can the Serbs of Pale derail their efforts? And how much political will and time will be involved before the five states to emerge from Tito's Yugoslavia can settle the main legal questions stemming from the succession, and Milosevic's state can openly inherit the name "Yugoslavia"? -- Patrick Moore

    [02] BOSNIAN SERBS BOYCOTT PRESIDENCY, PARLIAMENT.

    The answer from Pale, in any event, was not long in coming. Bosnian Serb Representatives failed to attend the opening of the new all-Bosnian legislature and a session of the three-man presidency in Sarajevo on 5 October, Oslobodjenje reported. Krajisnik said that he feared for the Serbs' safety, but it also appears that he was unwilling to take the loyalty oath to Bosnia- Herzegovina that was administered at the session. The Bosnian Serb leadership was also probably still angry that Izetbegovic agreed to establish relations with Belgrade without consulting Pale. Krajisnik denied that he and the others had staged a boycott but instead stressed the safety issue and added that the Serbs are ready to participate in joint institutions. International officials have protested to Pale, but it is not clear who has the next move in the ongoing chess game. -- Patrick Moore

    [03] BOSNIAN SERB RULING PARTY LOSES TWO-THIRDS RS PARLIAMENT MAJORITY.

    The Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) may have other considerations as well. Although it won parliamentary polls in the Republika Srpska (RS), it has a sharply reduced majority that will not enable it to overturn decisions of the Bosnian presidency, AFP reported on 30 September. According to results certified by the OSCE, the SDS won 45 seats out of 83 in the Bosnian Serb parliament, down from the 76 seats it held previously. Either Bosnian entity's parliament can veto the presidency's decisions, but only with a two-thirds majority. The parliament is also no longer purely Serb, with 17 Muslim deputies and one Croat. The Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the leading Muslim party, is the second largest party in the RS parliament with 14 seats. The Serb opposition Alliance for Peace and Progress is third with 10 seats. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [04] CROATS LEAVE INAUGURAL SESSION OF SARAJEVO CANTONAL ASSEMBLY.

    Nor are the Serbian nationalists the only unhappy nationalists around Bosnia- Herzegovina. Members of the leading Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) staged a walkout on 5 October at the first meeting of a lower-level parliament body to protest their lack of power in the Muslim-dominated assembly, AFP reported. Deputies of the assembly representing the HDZ arrived in the municipal center building but then walked out before taking the oath. In the 14 September Bosnian vote for Sarajevo's cantonal assembly, the HDZ won only 6%, while the SDA won 59% of the vote. But although Sarajevan Croats did not vote for it and preferred anti-nationalist parties instead, the HDZ wants one-third of the power in the Sarajevo canton, Oslobodjenje reported on 7 October. Before they left the session, the HDZ deputies indicated that their party and the SDA were making a deal about Sarajevo's future structure -- causing a strong reaction from the opposition deputies. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [05] BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTIONS TO GO AHEAD IN NOVEMBER.

    And voting continues to be in the news. The OSCE's supervisor of the Bosnian elections, U.S. diplomat Robert Frowick, said on 4 October that the vote for local officials will go ahead on 22-24 November (see below). It is not clear what he intends to do about the extensive political engineering that had been involved in the voter registration process and forced the postponement of the local ballot from the original 14 September date. Frowick said that he wants the elections to take place before the international military presence is reduced or withdrawn, the BBC noted. But critics claim that he is under strong political pressure from the Clinton administration to wind things up as quickly as possible, so that the president can claim to the U.S. electorate that things are proceeding on schedule and that there will be no open-ended American commitment to Bosnia. -- Patrick Moore

    [06] BOSNIAN MUSLIMS AND CROATS AGREE ON ARMY JOINT COMMAND.

    Before the U.S. leaves Bosnia, Washington would like to have that country's military built up and able to defend itself against Serbian big guns should war resume. To that end, the Washington has been working patiently in the difficult task of building up a unified federal force. Muslim presidency member Alija Izetbegovic and his Croatian counterpart Kresimir Zubak signed a document on 2 October establishing a joint command for the Federal Army. That new body will consist of the former mainly Muslim government army and the former Croatian Defense Council (HVO). Its commander will be the army's chief Gen. Rasim Delic and his deputy will be the HVO's Gen. Zivko Budimir, Oslobodjenje reported. -- Patrick Moore

    [07] MORE MUJAHEDEEN FOR BOSNIA?

    Another problem for Washington has been that of Islamic fighters, who should have disappeared at the beginning of the year. The Bosnian federal police arrested what they said were 24 citizens of Iraq and four from Jordan on 1 October, two days after the 28 arrived illegally on a Jordanian peacekeepers' plane. An IFOR spokesman said that IFOR's intelligence experts were looking into the Bosnian Interior Ministry report, Reuters noted on 2 October. Nasa Borba then reported on 8 October that the 28 were in reality all Iraqi Kurds and that they had been deported back to Jordan on 6 October. The Bosnian authorities announced that none had requested asylum, but the UNHCR is investigating. -- Patrick Moore

    [08] PENTAGON: U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA UNTIL MARCH.

    In any event, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said U.S. troops will be in Bosnia until March as part of a new force to cover the withdrawal of IFOR, AFP reported on 1 October. Bacon said the force will start arriving in Bosnia soon. Other observers suggested that in size and make-up the new body will conform to a plan being considered by NATO for a reduced version of IFOR remaining in Bosnia. There are fears that war could break out in Bosnia if IFOR ends its mission on 20 December as scheduled. Bacon said the covering force's mission will be for a defined period of time. Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. envoy for Bosnia, said earlier that Bosnia needs "some kind of follow-on international security presence." European allies have said they will participate in a post-IFOR force only together with the U.S. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [09] BOSNIAN PRIME MINISTER URGES DONORS TO KEEP PROMISES . . .

    Turning from guns to butter, Bosnian Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic said on 30 September that many international donors have failed to honor financial pledges to his country, warning that there would be no stable peace without financial support, AFP reported. Muratovic said only 40% of the pledges made at conferences in December 1995 and April 1996 have been committed to concrete projects. A World Bank study released the same day showed that nearly all the $330 million it pledged to make available by 31 December 1996 had been committed. Thirteen World Bank projects are operational in Bosnia, and 629 contracts with a value of $140 million have been signed with the bank's financing. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [10] . . . AND ASKS IMF TO RESCHEDULE BOSNIAN DEBTS.

    Muratovic also stressed that Bosnia has met all the IMF's conditions for assistance, calling for "immediate" negotiations to secure financial support for Bosnia and establish its creditworthiness. Muratovic called for reducing and rescheduling Bosnia's foreign debts, saying it was "a precondition for successful restoration of the country's borrowing power and for attracting additional funds for reconstruction." IMF officials have estimated the debt owed by Bosnia to government and private creditors at about $2 billion. They have said talks in Sarajevo could begin after the formation of a new Bosnian government at the end of October. EU foreign ministers said the same day that the EU should contribute for another two years to the peace process in Bosnia. The EU put up some $398 million in 1996 for reconstruction. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [11] JUSICI REFUGEES GO HOME.

    Still on civilian affairs, the Muslim refugees from Jusici seem to have won their battle with IFOR and have gone back to their village with the international community's blessing (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 1 October 1996). IFOR did not want them around because of fears that violence would result if Muslim villagers tried to go home to what is now the Republika Srpska and in the "zone of separation." But the Muslims held their ground, insisting that the Dayton agreement guarantees them both freedom of movement and the right to return to their village. A face-saving formula was found whereby the Muslims left for three days so that the UNHCR could certify that they had indeed lived in Jusici prior to the war. By 6 October, some 60 Muslims had been given the green light and went home in triumph, Reuters noted. -- Patrick Moore

    [12] SECOND ATTACK ON BOSNIAN CROAT OPPOSITION POLITICIAN.

    Some other stories, however, have taken a turn for the worse. Following a hand grenade attack on the home of the Croatian Peasant Party's (HSS) Josip Jole Musa (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 1 October 1996), unidentified gunmen seriously wounded Musa by spraying the apartment with machinegun fire, Oslobodjenje reported on 2 October. Political violence was rampant in Mostar before the 14 September elections, but this is the first instance of it since then. The HSS has blamed the governing HDZ for the grenade attack, arguing that the HDZ's control over west Mostar is complete and no such thing can happen without its knowledge. -- Patrick Moore

    [13] MINERS END STRIKE THREAT.

    Meanwhile on the labor front, representatives of some 19,000 miners from all over Bosnia on 3 October dropped a previous threat to call a general strike, but still stressed their unhappiness with makeshift solutions to their problems, Oslobodjenje reported. On 2 October, the miners had threatened to strike unless they received their salaries for August and September, Onasa reported. Sulejman Hrle, head of the Association of Bosnian Trade Unions, said it was a pitiful disgrace that the miners must rally each month to demand their salaries. Federation Prime Minister Izudin Kapetanovic promised they would be paid for August by 4 October at the latest, but miners pressed for a systematic solution. "It is only a drop in the sea, only a prolongation of our agony," Oslobodjenje quoted one Zenica miner as saying. Mining, along with forestry and power-generating, are key sectors in the economy. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [14] U.S. ENVOY DISCUSSES UN MANDATE IN EASTERN SLAVONIA.

    Moving on to eastern Slavonia -- the one part of Croatia still under Serbian control -- John Kornblum arrived there on 4 October to meet Jacques Klein. The latter is the head of the UN administration of the region and the men discussed the possibility of extending the mandate of UN troops, AFP reported. A UN spokesman said that Kornblum came to show U.S. support for the reintegration process of eastern Slavonia into Croatia -- which is due after the UN mandate in the region expires -- but he also discussed the possibility of extending that mandate into next year. The Serbs in the area want that UN mandate extended, while Croats want the troops to leave. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [15] UN OFFERS TO BUY WEAPONS FROM CROATIAN SERBS.

    The UN and the Croatian government meanwhile launched a project of buying up weapons in private hands there, news agencies reported on 2 October. The formal demilitarization did not include privately owned weapons, and the UN authorities have now offered to pay $120 per working automatic rifle, $150 per machine gun, and $20 per hand grenade. The prices of other items are negotiable and faulty weapons are bought for half-price. But Serbs say the deal will not work because they do not trust the Croatians and the offers are too low. -- Daria Sito Sucic

    [16] UN SECURITY COUNCIL LIFTS SANCTIONS AGAINST BELGRADE . . .

    Some of the biggest news this week, however, involved the UN sanctions against Belgrade and Pale. The Security Council on 1 October formally ended trade sanctions against federal Yugoslavia, imposed in 1992 for the country's role in fomenting the war in Bosnia, Reuters reported. The sanctions were already suspended last year following the Dayton agreement. The resolution passed 15- 0. The document warned that the council would consider reimposing any of the sanctions if either Serb group failed "significantly to meet (their) obligations under the peace agreement." Russia, however, is likely to veto any such move. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [17] . . . WHILE 'OUTER WALL' OF SANCTIONS REMAINS.

    At the insistence of the U.S., the UN did not lift the suspension of federal Yugoslavia from the General Assembly and other UN bodies, Reuters reported. The council also made no provisions for Belgrade to rejoin financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright said "Serbia-Montenegro will not be able to participate in international institutions... until it makes substantial progress in Kosovo, cooperates fully with the international tribunal in The Hague, and... settles successor-state issues with its neighbors." The 1 October UN resolution lifting trade sanctions also did not release Belgrade's frozen assets because of disputes and claims from other of those successor states. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [18] IS AVRAMOVIC A REAL THREAT TO MILOSEVIC?

    Still in Belgrade, just over one month before the federal parliamentary elections, both the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the opposition have begun forming coalitions. Milosevic's SPS has attracted as allies the New Democracy party and the United Yugoslav Left of Milosevic's wife Mirjana Markovic. The opposition, for its part, seeks to challenge Milosevic's grip on power by nominating one of Serbia's most popular politicians, former Central Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic.

    Avramovic successfully halted hyperinflation two years ago but was sacked in May of this year after a dispute with Milosevic about economic and political reforms. Milosevic had refused to give Avramovic full authority to negotiate a loan with the IMF and subsequently Avramovic charged Milosevic with driving the country into bankruptcy. Ironically, it was Milosevic himself and his media who had earlier put forward Avramovic as the multi-talented "super granddad" and made him a legend throughout the country. Meanwhile, Avramovic has become increasingly popular by presenting himself as the defender of the average worker's interests and as a fighter against government corruption and the illicit enrichment of the nomenklatura. While supporting the independent trade unions, he sharply criticized their communist-era counterparts as bureaucratic, inflexible and not representing workers' interests.

    Avramovic orchestrated his move into party politics carefully. On 26 September -- the 30th day of the massive strike at the Kragujevac arms and automobile plants -- he addressed a demonstration of over 10,000 people. In his speech he strongly attacked the ruling Serbian nomenklatura by saying that "one should make those cadres who do not leave their cars use tram No. 2 so that they see in what miserable condition the world lives. They have no clue how it is to live with a salary of 300 to 400 dinars ($60-80 at the official exchange rate)."

    Only two days later, he was invited to head the list of candidates list of the "Zajedno" (Together) coalition, which is made up of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement, Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party, Vesna Pesic's Citizen's Union and the Independent Trade Unions. (Vojislav Kostunica's Serbian Democratic Party and the Democratic Center of Dragoljub Micunovic also expressed their readiness to participate.) Avramovic pledged to liberalize the state-run economy, to enact Western-style democratic reforms and reduce the size of the central government ruling the Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro.

    Even though he is probably Milosevic's strongest challenger, it remains unclear if he will be able to achieve his goals. Milosevic remains the strongman in the country, and it seems certain that he will try to find a way to maintain his hold on power once his second five-year term runs out in December 1997. The Serbian constitution forbids a third term for him and observers speculate that he will run for the federal president's office when current federal President Zoran Lilic's term ends in June 1997.

    It is, however, unclear how Lilic's successor would be elected. According to the current federal constitution the president is elected by parliament, but the SPS, anticipating an election victory in November's parliamentary ballot, has already drawn up a strategy to secure Milosevic's future unambiguously. The plan foresees an increase in the central powers of the federal government, but also provides for the federal president to be elected by direct vote. This would be arranged by adopting or amending relevant federal laws within the first six months of 1997. The SPS expects that this would ensure Milosevic's victory.

    Should, however, Avramovic's coalition gain over a third of the seats in the federal parliament, it would be able to block constitutional changes and Milosevic would have to fight to control that legislative body. Should the coalition manage to win a majority, it could cost Milosevic the federal presidency. Nonetheless, Avramovic would still, for at least another year, have to fight against a powerful Serbian president, who will not hesitate to use dubious means to ensure himself another term as either Serbian or federal president. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [19] POWER PLAY.

    On the afternoon of 4 October, Ambassador Robert Frowick announced to the press his decision to proceed with municipal elections in the previously proposed November time frame. He acknowledged that it will be "high-risk operational program" and made clear that he well understands the move is "very controversial." Once again the chairman of the OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina defied majority opinion -- but this time his position is weaker than ever. His action to charge forward with the local elections against all odds can best be compared to a power-play in ice-hockey, where a narrowly losing team desperately tries to reverse the outcome of the match by pulling off its goal-keeper and replacing him with another offensive player. Whatever offensive advantage may be generated is paid for by the mortal risk of leaving unguarded the goal behind the team's back.

    Back in July, Frowick overcame the opposition of Carl Bildt and the majority of the Contact Group when he threatened to ban the SDS from elections if it did not formally end its relations with indicted war criminals. He won even more respect when he refused to turn a blind eye to the widespread fraud in voter registration before the general elections and moved to postpone municipal elections to later date. But a controversial performance on the general elections and serious mistakes in ballot counting procedures have caused the reputation of the OSCE to plummet to new lows.

    Frowick's decision to press ahead with the municipal races came after two weeks of frantic diplomatic activity aimed at gathering outside political support for the step. None came -- at least not in the open -- even from the Clinton administration (see above). There was only the word that the Peace Implementation Council (a gathering of Contact Group representatives with Japan and the Organization of Islamic Countries) and the OSCE Permanent Council will support any decision made by Frowick's Sarajevo-based Provisional Election Council. The most honest sound-bite came from current OSCE Chairman Flavio Cotti, who told Swiss TV: "we will give support for these elections but do not hold us responsible."

    With at least tepid diplomatic support thus secured, more or less firm promises of an additional $8.6 million pledged, and an international staff of several dozen experienced hands, Frowick can now turn to other obstacles and challenges. First he has to contend with damage control after several top OSCE election officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina resigned, some of them openly questioning the OSCE performance in September's general elections. Frowick acknowledged that the "team that is leaving had reservations concerning holding of municipal elections," but added that "team in place is fully committed." He also confirmed that his decision goes contrary to a proposal by Edward van Thijn, the chief of OSCE Monitoring Mission, to postpone local elections until more democratic conditions are secured.

    Secondly, these elections are much more entangled in administrative complexities and political disputes than was the case with the September vote. The RS representative in the PEC, Professor Slobodan Kovac, pointed out on 4 October that 36 municipalities in both entities have not yet established their administrative borders. This alone can make organizing elections in these areas extremely troublesome. Voter registration for the municipal balloting is certain to prove an odious task, more difficult and more controversial than in the September round. "In the general elections the large numbers helped to smooth out effect of some mistakes," Frowick told OMRI. "On a municipal level, however, ten votes can make a difference. Do not forget what problems came with only 40-odd votes from the Bonn embassy in the Mostar elections."

    The use of Application Form No. 2 (P-2) -- which allows refugee and displaced voters to register "in their place of intended residence," thereby setting the stage for vote rigging -- was not even debated at the 4 October meeting because it was clear that otherwise no basic agreement could be achieved to have municipal elections at all. The SDA has made the abolition of P-2 a firm precondition to its running in the municipal elections. The SDS with equal firmness insists on keeping it . Frowick expresses his belief that "some kind of compromise can be found" but admits that so far none has.

    The third and equally difficult task for him is to overcome growing fear among the leadership in the Republika Srpska that the SDS could lose the absolute control it now maintains. A SDS official speaking under the condition of anonymity told OMRI that some party colleagues were wondering why they should risk having their power diluted by the opposition. Some even thought that Muslims could win control or get share of power in some regions. The SDS figure went on to say that "right now Pale simply appoints SDS loyalists to become municipal officials. They cannot imagine that they would have to deal with an elected Muslim."

    In any event, the International community will try once again to put responsibility on the parties and approve anything that may come from their deals. Frowick already expressed hopes that arrangements for crossing Inter- Entity Border Line on election day will be similar to those employed in September. What he called "a solid concept with some unfortunate choices" had in reality meant a voters' apartheid -- with polling stations for Muslims in Serb territory set up away from towns, as in the notorious case of a tent erected in a rock-quarry. Power-plays can pay off, but only when there is a strong offensive front-line. Without that hopes of a daring reversal can end up like the Charge of the Light Brigade. -- Jan Urban in Sarajevo

    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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