Serb Leaders Try to Win Over Recalcitrant Sarajevo Serbs
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The leader of the Bosnian Serbs promised Friday to ``accept the peace,″ but residents of Serb-held Sarajevo suburbs vowed to fight on.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appeared on Bosnian Serb television in an attempt to persuade diehard rebels that further armed resistance would be futile.
``The time has come to use political means to achieve our goals,″ he said Friday night. ``We have given up the war option. ... We accept the peace.″
But he faced a tough audience: Earlier in the day, leaders of Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo told Karadzic in a meeting that they could not accept the U.S.-brokered plan that obliged them to cede control of their territory.
``The people of Serb Sarajevo simply have nowhere to go unless America offers us a new city in Ohio where we all can move,″ Ratko Adzic, who heads the local ``war council″ of the Ilijas suburb, was quoted as saying by the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA.
He said Sarajevo Serbs ``will have to militarily defend our city and property and to fight one for all and all for one.″
Under the peace agreement reached in Dayton, Ohio, Sarajevo becomes Bosnia’s reunited capital. The rest of Bosnia will be divided in half _ one part run by the Bosnian Serbs, the other by a Muslim-Croat federation.
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic persuaded Bosnian Serb leaders to agree to the plan. But it was clear in Friday night’s broadcast that their acceptance was reluctant.
Looking subdued and somber, Karadzic and his deputy, Momcilo Krajisnik, argued that their demands were ignored at the negotiations, both by the Americans and by Milosevic, who negotiated on their behalf.
Krajisnik was the senior Bosnian Serb at the talks, which ended with a peace agreement on Tuesday. Karadzic, accused of war crimes by an international tribunal, did not attend.
On Thursday, the two met with Milosevic, their former war ally who agreed to peace in order to achieve a lifting of punishing U.N. sanctions on Yugoslavia, which is dominated by Serbia.
Krajisnik repeatedly criticized Milosevic, saying he made decisions arbitrarily without consulting him.
``It seems that nobody conveyed our messages to the international negotiators,″ he said. He said ``Milosevic outvoted us″ on the issue of posting NATO troops in Serb-held territory, something the rebels opposed. The Serbian president also agreed to cede territory in western Bosnia that the rebels had wanted to keep, he said.
President Clinton released letters Friday from Milosevic, Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic promising to ensure ``the safety and security″ of peacekeepers who will enforce the peace plan. Milosevic’s letter includes a paragraph saying Bosnian Serbs will comply with the accord.
During a tour of Bosnia-bound troops in Germany, Defense Secretary William Perry said military officials were not expecting ``organized opposition″ to their mission, although he added: ``We do expect _ given the years of war and the hatred that has built up _ resistance from some individuals and gangs.″
Despite their reservations, rebel Serb leaders were clearly trying Friday to sell the peace to their people.
Nikola Koljevic, a Bosnian Serb leader who participated in the peace talks in Dayton, conceded that it would be hard to accept the NATO deployment. But he appealed to recalcitrant Serbs to accept ``a historic task.″
``Those who yesterday bombed our people now become peacemakers,″ he said on Montenegrin television. ``The wounds are still fresh and our main problem will be to persuade our people to accept NATO on our soil.″
SRNA reported that several hundred flag-waving students, joined by Bosnian Serb soldiers, demonstrated against the peace agreement Friday in the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza. It said similar protests were planned in Vogosca and Grbavica on Saturday.
Many Sarajevo Serbs have said they are ready to die if the Dayton agreement takes effect. Others told reporters they would burn their homes if they are forced to leave.
Rajko Koprivica, a Vogosca leader, said for ``no price″ would Serbs allow all of Sarajevo to be given to the Bosnian federation.
``Only those who have bled ... could decide our fate,″ SRNA quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, Bosnia’s foreign minister, Muhamed Sacirbey, warned that ``there can be no real peace″ until Bosnian Serb leaders indicted by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal are turned over for trial in The Hague.
In its first public reaction to the peace accord, the tribunal said in a statement Friday that it ``trusts″ the former warring parties will surrender suspects even though the peace plan does not specifically order them to do so.
Sources close to the Serb leadership have said the highest-ranking Serbs indicted by the tribunal _ Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic _ will step down.
But on Friday, Karadzic evaded questions about his own future and insisted that Mladic was ``staying on″ as military leader. He gave no indication that either leader was worried about extradition.