Rebel Leaders Trying to Sell Peace Plan to Serb Holdouts
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnian Serb leaders, forced to accept a U.S.-mediated peace plan, now are trying to win over Serb holdouts, promising their struggle will continue _ but on a political battlefield.
``The time has come to use political means to achieve our goals,″ Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said Friday, after telling a prime time television audience: ``We accept the peace.″
Karadzic and his aide, Momcilo Krajisnik, met earlier with leaders of Serb-held sections of Sarajevo, who are resisting pressure to accept the peace agreement negotiated in Dayton, Ohio.
Under that agreement, which would divide Bosnia into Muslim-Croat and Serb sections, the Sarajevo Serbs would have to return control of their portion of the capital to the Muslim-led government.
Several hundred people, including some soldiers, staged a protest Friday in the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza. Former Serb police chief Ratko Adzic warned that the Serbs would fight to defend their homes and property.
Nikola Koljevic, a Bosnian Serb leader, appealed to recalcitrant Serbs to accept ``a historic task″ and bring an end to 3 1/2 years of war.
Koljevic is a possible successor to Karadzic, who would be forced out of power by a provision of the agreement negotiated in Dayton, Ohio, that bans anyone charged with war crimes from holding office in Bosnia.
Speaking on television in Yugoslavia, Koljevic conceded that allowing NATO peacekeepers into Bosnia to enforce the agreement will be hard for the Serbs to accept.
``Those who yesterday bombed our people now become peacemakers,″ he said. ``The wounds are still fresh and our main problem will be to persuade our people to accept NATO on our soil.″
Karadzic met Thursday with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who incited their war but then pressured them to make peace in an attempt to end crippling U.N. trade sanctions.
In Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital, sources said Milosevic met on Friday with the federal president of Yugoslavia and the president of Montenegro, the only other republic that remains in Yugoslavia.
No details were announced. But the three were believed to have discussed what to do if defiant Sarajevo Serbs do something that could jeopardize the peace agreement.
Karadzic was meeting in Pale, the Bosnian Serb capital, with leaders of the ``war councils″ of Serb-controlled Sarajevo districts. The meeting lasted into the night.
Sources in the Bosnian Serb leadership said Thursday that Karadzic and the Serb military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, would step down. But it wasn’t clear whether they would be extradited to stand trial in the U.N. war crimes court in the Netherlands.
Many Sarajevo Serbs have said they’re ready to fight to the death if the Dayton agreement takes effect. Others told reporters they’d burn their homes if forced to leave.
``The people of Serb Sarajevo simply have nowhere to go unless America offers us a new city in Ohio where we all can move,″ Adzic, the former Serb police chief, told the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA.
During their TV appearance, the Serb leaders Karadzic and Krajisnik said their demands were ignored at the peace negotiations, both by U.S. diplomats and by Milosevic, who negotiated on their behalf.
Krajisnik, the senior Bosnian Serb at the talks, repeatedly criticized Milosevic, who made decisions without consulting him.
``It seems that nobody conveyed our messages to the international negotiators,″ he said.
He added that ``Milosevic outvoted us″ on the issue of posting NATO troops on Serb-held territories, and agreed to give away Serb-held territory in western Bosnia.
President Clinton on Friday released letters from Milosevic and the presidents of Bosnia and Croatia guaranteeing the ``safety and security″ of peacekeepers. Milosevic’s letter includes a paragraph saying Bosnian Serbs will comply with the accord.
Defense Secretary William Perry, visiting Bosnia-bound troops in Germany, said military officials were not expecting ``organized opposition″ to their mission.
But he added: ``We do expect _ given the years of war and the hatred that has built up _ resistance from some individuals and gangs.″