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Mladic’s Command Goes over to New Commander

November 28, 1996

PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The Bosnian Serbs’ wartime military leader, faced with immense political pressure, did something today in peacetime that he rarely did in war. He surrendered.

Gen. Ratko Mladic, twice indicted for war crimes for the fierce way he conducted the Bosnian war, bowed to pressure to step aside. He was fired Nov. 9 by the Bosnian Serb political leadership, but had refused to quit.

Mladic said he was quitting in a statement issued late Wednesday and named a trusted deputy he hoped would replace him.

He didn’t win that concession, either. Today that deputy, Gen. Manojlo Milovanovic took part in a ceremony in which Mladic’s command formally went over to the civilian leaders’ choice.

Mladic was not present, and Milovanovic signed an order under which a little-known general, Pero Colic, took command.

With Mladic’s departure, a bitter Serb-Serb dispute might begin to mend.

At the ceremony in Pale, the Bosnian Serb political headquarters east of Sarajevo, President Biljana Plavsic said she hoped that ``the official takeover will be followed by an actual one.″

She thanked Mladic ``for everything he has done in the past hard times.″

Plavsic replaced Mladic and his entire general staff, citing international resistance to indicted war crimes suspects. But political considerations also seemed to weigh heavily.

Mladic has close ties to Serbia’s President Slobodan Milosevic, the former Bosnian Serb patron who later abandoned them and signed a peace deal they intensely dislike. Milosevic used Mladic’s command to pressure the Bosnian Serbs to stick to the Dayton agreement.

Plavsic personally distrusts Milosevic, and in the past has publicly snubbed him.

Mladic’s announcement Wednesday had come at the end of a day in which the Bosnian Serb assembly under Plavsic’s control demanded he and other top army officers be prosecuted for disobeying civil authorities.

Faced with the order to step aside, Mladic and his aides blocked communications towers, set up roadblocks and even temporarily detained a number of civilian officials.

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