Bosnian Serbs Grudgingly Agree to U.S.-Brokered Settlement
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Grudgingly accepting the Balkan peace accord brokered by the United States, Bosnian Serb leaders began the bitter task today of trying to persuade their followers to go along.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic met today with the leaders of several Serb-held areas of Sarajevo who have rejected the agreement reached Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio.
The accord ending 3 1/2 years of war divides Bosnia into Serb and Muslim-Croat entities, with Sarajevo becoming the capital of the latter. The plan is to be policed by 60,000 NATO troops, an estimated 20,000 of them from the United States.
The state-run Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug, reported late Thursday that President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia succeeded in persuading Karadzic to accept the plan _ but only after difficult talks. Milosevic represented Bosnian Serbs at the Dayton talks.
A member of the Bosnian Serb delegation, who requested anonymity, confirmed the leadership had accepted the agreement. Sources close to the Serb leadership also said both Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, will step down.
It was not clear when this would happen and who would succeed them. But Nikola Koljevic, Karadzic’s deputy and a possible successor, was the only member of the Bosnian Serb delegation to remain in Belgrade after the talks Thursday with Milosevic. The rest of the delegation returned from the Serbian capital to the rebel stronghold Pale, southeast of Sarajevo.
The Dayton pact prohibits anyone indicted for war crimes from holding office in Bosnia. Both Karadzic and Mladic have been indicted by the international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
The accord will be signed in Paris within the first 10 days of December, Foreign Minister Herve de Charette of France said today. The date is subject to diplomatic consultations, he told France Inter radio, without elaborating.
Even though Karadzic has reportedly come around, many Bosnian Serbs have not. Even before the Dayton agreement, the rebels were at odds with Milosevic, their former ally, over his newfound desire for peace at almost any price.
On Wednesday, the United Nations rewarded him for his mediation by lifting crippling trade sanctions against his country.
Momcilo Krajisnik, one of three Bosnian Serb leaders in Dayton, rejected the plan because it kept Sarajevo in the Muslim-led government’s hands, permitted a land corridor linking the Bosnian capital with the government-controlled enclave of Gorazde and deprived the Serbs of a wider corridor linking their lands in the east and west.
He was the only official in the delegation from Pale to still adamantly oppose the plan on Thursday, Bosnian Serb sources said.
Krajisnik joined Karadzic at today’s meeting in Pale. There was no comment from either man.
Serbs in and near Sarajevo have vowed never to accept the peace plan and persuading them to give up resistance is expected to be a tough task for Karadzic, whose approval was considered vital to the smooth execution of the plan.
Three Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo _ Vogosca, Hadzici and Ilidza _ called for increased military readiness Thursday.
But anger of the division of territory under the peace agreement was not restricted to Serbs.
In western Bosnia, Croats looted and burned at least a dozen houses in the areas of Mrkonjic Grad and Sipovo, which are to be returned to the Serbs under the Dayton agreement, U.N. officials said.
The area was recently captured from the Serbs in a joint offensive by Muslim-led government and Croat forces.
A U.N. spokesman appealed to Bosnian Croat authorities to ``ensure that such activities cease immediately and that the perpetrators are dealt with accordingly.″
The United Nations is ``extremely concerned with these reports and hopes that these cases of vandalism are nothing more than isolated incidents,″ the spokesman, Alexander Ivanko, told reporters in Sarajevo.
Serbs in northern Bosnia are happier with the plan because it leaves them in control of their regions: Just weeks ago, they faced the prospect of defeat by a combined Muslim-Croat offensive. Moreover, with Sarajevo controlled by the Bosnian government, the northern rebel city of Banja Luka has the best chances of becoming the capital of the Serb part of Bosnia.
``It has given the Serbs the most they could get,″ said Rajko Kasagic, a Bosnian Serb leader from Banja Luka.
Mira Djokic, who fled Sarajevo for Pale when the war broke out, was more bitter.
``It’s easy for them to accept the plan,″ he said. ``They don’t have to move from Banja Luka.″