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Muslim Candidate Mounts Doomed Campaign in Serb Territory

September 9, 1996

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Adib Djozic, a Bosnian Muslim, is in a quixotic campaign to be president of Serb territory he doesn’t feel safe entering.

Djozic is the only Muslim appearing by name on the ballot in the Serb half of Bosnia. His candidacy is so hopeless he doesn’t even appear on campaign posters.

``Why should I? For whom?″ he asks.

Djozic says the point is not winning, but gaining the support of Muslims exiles. His presidential bid is just one way that Bosnia’s Muslims are dealing with a region that is now nearly ethnically pure Serb.

Djozic is running against a handful of Serbs, including Biljana Plavsic, the woman who replaced Radovan Karadzic, who has been indicted on war crimes charges by an international tribunal.

``The way I see it, I win if 90 percent of displaced Bosnians vote for me as the legitimate representative of the Bosnian people in the Serb republic,″ he said.

That’s likely to be a relatively small percentage of the votes cast on the Serb side in next Saturday’s election. More than 600,000 people are registered there.

So far, 87,000 Muslim refugees have registered to vote absentee in the Serb republic, and election officials say another 65,000 could return to prewar hometowns to vote.

Given the possibility of violence, how many undertake the trip still is a matter of speculation.

Djozic’s campaign hinges on a single issue: guaranteeing the return of Muslims to reclaim their homes and property in the half of Bosnia under Serb control that they fled during the war.

``If we do not return to our homes, we have no future,″ Djozic said. ``We cannot live without that land.″

The 43-year-old sociologist worked in a marble factory in his native Srebrenica until the war made him a soldier. Peace, he says, has made him a politician.

His transition into the Muslim-led ruling party’s leading candidate in Serb territory has perplexed the Srebrenica city government in exile, which refuses to endorse him though it belongs to the same party.

The exile government feels it would better represent displaced Muslims, having made the same desperate flight to Tuzla with tens of thousands of Srebrenica refugees after their city was overrun by Serbs in July 1995, said spokesman Hamdija Fazlic.

Djozic was assigned at the time to a Muslim brigade outside of Tuzla, where he continues to live with his wife and three sons.

Even without the support of the exile government, Djozic is the only real choice for Muslims who will vote in the Serb half of the country during elections for a joint national government and separate Serb and Muslim-Croat governments.

Though his is the only Muslim name on the Serb ballot, Muslim parties, without individual names, are running for seats in the Serb parliament.

Djozic he looks the part of a politician, in a trimmed mustache and gray suit, but the soldier is still lurking.

``We will be very patient for a political way that all people can return to their homes and their land. But if it not going to happen like this, we will make another war,″ Djozic said.

He and his three sons, aged 20, 17 and 9, vow to take up arms if necessary.

The message would not win him Serb votes _ and he makes no effort to campaign for them. He declined to appear on Bosnian Serb television to deprive Serb officials of any chance to score political points at his expense.

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