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Bosnia Muslim Leader To Retire

June 7, 2000

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Alija Izetbegovic, who led Bosnia’s Muslim-led government during the Bosnian war, announced Tuesday he will resign from Bosnia’s collective presidency in October.

Izetbegovic cited his age and health for his decision to withdraw from the three-member presidency at the end of his term as the chairman Oct. 12.

``In August, I will be 75 and the job of a member of the presidency requires a physical condition that I no longer have,″ Izetbegovic said in a statement.

The presidency includes one representative from each ethnic group _ Muslims, Serbs and Croats _ that fought the 1992-1995 war.

Bosnian law provides no provision for choosing a new presidency member if one of the three dies in office. Izetbegovic said he hoped parliament would approve a succession law before he steps down.

Some observers said that because there is no law on succession, Izetbegovic’s decision may force the two other presidency members _ Bosnian Serb Zivko Radisic and Bosnian Croat Ante Jelavic _ to resign also pending new elections.

Izetbegovic said he would stay on as president of his Party for Democratic Action, or SDA. Izetbegovic said his biggest success in the last 10 years was the fact that he prevented Bosnia becoming a part of Greater Serbia.

He cited the failure to establish a ``a unified, democratic and prosperous Bosnia″ was his greatest failure.

``Bosnia is still not unified,″ he said. ``There are no human rights throughout the country. Bosnia is being eaten by social problems. There are no jobs, people live a difficult life ... This process of creating unified Bosnia and the elimination of separatistic elements, creating of jobs ... it’s not moving forward.″

Izetbegovic, a devout Muslim who spent nine years as a political prisoner in Communist Yugoslavia, became an international figure during the long years when his capital Sarajevo was under siege by Bosnian Serb forces.

He was among the signatories of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the conflict.

Izetbegovic won a reputation as a moderate by steering multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina on a neutral course during the early years of the breakup of former Yugoslavia.

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