Bosnian Serb leaders refuse to cooperate further with Plavsic
Aug. 23, 1997
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The hard-line Bosnian Serb government announced Saturday it would no longer cooperate with President Biljana Plavsic, intensifying the power struggle between her and her rivals.
The government, made up of supporters of Plavsic's rival Radovan Karadzic, accused Plavsic of violating the constitution by suspending the national assembly and calling for elections.
In a statement issued through Bosnian Serb state media, the Bosnian Serb government said it would regard all Plavsic's decisions from now on as ``irregular, illegitimate and non-binding.''
The announcement seemed to rule out any hope of compromise in the rivalry between the government in Pale and Plavsic, raising fears that Bosnian Serbs were headed for a showdown that could end in either a territorial split of their half of Bosnia or an armed conflict.
The outcome depends in part on how the foreign powers guaranteeing Bosnia's peace, particularly the NATO-led peace force, respond to the crisis.
Western nations have increasingly backed Plavsic in her campaign to discredit Karadzic. She has accused the former Bosnian Serb leader and his allies of impoverishing their people through corruption and black-market deals.
Plavsic, who supported Karadzic during the Bosnian war, has called October elections to replace the assembly, but the Constitutional Court ruled against her.
Meanwhile, the top peace envoy in Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp, threatened to shut down Bosnian Serb television because of its ``deliberate misinformation, inflammatory commentary, insulting language and highly biased reportage.''
Duncan Bullivant, a spokesman for Westendorp, said the Serb government does not ``have the authority or the legitimacy to issue such a statement.''
He said Plavsic's decision to suspend the national assembly was in accordance with the Serb constitution. ``We support that position,'' Bullivant said.
On Saturday, international officials indicated they were ready to move against Bosnian Serb state media, which has sided with Plavsic's rivals and broadcast blistering attacks against her and the NATO-led peace force.
A video clip broadcast repeatedly on Thursday and Friday interspersed footage of peace force soldiers and Nazi troops, portraying them as similar. Citizens in Pale who were interviewed on the video called the peace force presence ``an occupation.''
``I am disgusted by these savages,'' said one, while another opined, ``We should take up weapons again.''
In a letter to Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik, Westendorp warned Saturday that he would move against Bosnian Serb television if it did not broadcast a week-old message voicing international support for the return of refugees to their prewar homes.
Westendorp accused Serb television of ``covering events in a fashion that appears to be deliberately designed to raise tensions rather then moderate them.''
Serb television broadcast it, as well as the text of Westendorp's letter, on Saturday night _ apparently avoiding an immediate shutdown, which Westendorp has the right to do if broadcasts violate the Dayton peace accord.
The head of Bosnian Serb TV, Miroslav Toholj, denied the allegations of biased reporting in an angry letter to Westendorp read over state television Saturday night.
``Don't meddle in matters concerning the will of our people,'' he wrote, threatening that ``any new drastic approach would be the end of your mission in our country''.
Eighteen striking employees of the Banja Luka studio of Bosnian Serb television appealed to Plavsic on Saturday to allow them to take over a transmitter in the region, which would enable them to broadcast independently. The transmitter is guarded by police loyal to the leaders in Pale.
A source close to Plavsic, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the president might move early in the week to set up a new, Banja Luka-based Bosnian Serb television.