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U.S. Envoy Denounces Bosnian Leader

December 8, 1998

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The U.S. envoy for Bosnia denounced the new Bosnian Serb president Monday, saying he has been working against the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian war.

The statement by Robert Gelbard indicates Washington’s displeasure with the extreme-nationalist President Nikola Poplasen and raised the possibility Poplasen might be fired by the international officials who effectively rule Bosnia under the Dayton agreement, which calls for the removal of Bosnian officials who jeopardize the peace deal.

``We are deeply concerned about what we have seen so far from President Poplasen and his short few weeks in office,″ Gelbard said in Banja Luka after he met Poplasen and pro-Western acting Bosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik.

Poplasen’s ``actions and his words have shown us that he is against the Dayton agreement,″ Gelbard told reporters. ``He appears to be using democratic mechanism for anti-democratic purposes.″

After meeting with Gelbard, Poplasen said in a statement that he was ``ready to accept any argument about the violation of the Dayton agreement and, if it happens, do everything to put a stop to it.″

Poplasen, of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, won presidential elections in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia last September over a moderate supported by Western officials.

Poplasen’s victory dealt a blow to international efforts to cement peace, encourage ethnic tolerance and impose democracy in Bosnia after the 1995 agreement ended the 3 1/2-year war.

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