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Bosnian Serb president struggling against allies of war leader

July 5, 1997

PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ In the gravest leadership crisis since the Bosnian war ended, lawmakers allied with the Bosnian Serbs’ wartime leader were maneuvering today to unseat his increasingly assertive successor.

Defying President Biljana Plavsic’s decree dissolving parliament, legislators loyal to the still-powerful Radovan Karadzic convened today while they search for a way to oust Plavsic.

Plavsic became president in internationally monitored elections after Karadzic, a war crimes suspect, was forced to step down last year under the U.S.-brokered peace agreement that ended Bosnia’s 3 1/2-year war.

Karadzic and his surrogates reject the Dayton peace accords, which call for a Bosnia made up of a Serb sub-state and a federation of Croats and Muslims. They want independence and eventual union with neighboring Serbia. Plavsic, a strong Serb nationalist in her own right, is more willing to work with the Muslims and Croats.

During parliamentary discussions today broadcast live on Bosnian Serb television, deputies lambasted Plavsic as traitor of Serb interests and praised Karadzic. They called on Plavsic to resign.

Lawmaker Momir Tosic lauded Karadzic, calling him ``the man who created Republika Srpska and Serb knights,″ an apparent reference to Serb soldiers during the Bosnian war. ``We can never forgive Mrs. Plavsic for blasting him.″

However, parliament still was short of the number of deputies needed to make major decisions today, such as ousting the president. The session may drag on for days for that reason.

Plavsic opponents waited for deputies from the Bosnian Serb branch of the Serbian Socialists, led by President Slobodan Milosevic, who opposes Plavsic.

The Bosnian Serb government, also loyal to Karadzic, rejected Plavsic’s call for an urgent session today, Premier Gojko Klickovic told reporters near Karadzic’s stronghold of Pale.

Plavsic issued the decree dissolving parliament Thursday. Allies of Karadzic said the order was illegal and on Friday declared the assembly to be in ``permanent session.″

The leadership crisis erupted last week when Plavsic fired Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, accusing of smuggling goods on behalf of Karadzic. Kijac on Friday accused Plavsic of unidentified foreign powers to weaken the Bosnian Serb mini-state and prepare for Karadzic’s arrest.

Karadzic has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity by an international tribunal.

Several thousand people gathered in Banja Luka Friday to support Plavsic. More rallies were planned for today.

Update hourly