Serb Leaders Try to Win Over Recalcitrant Sarajevo Serbs
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnian Serb leaders tried Friday to persuade local Serbs in Sarajevo to lay down their arms and accept the U.S.-brokered peace plan that obliges them to cede control of their territory.
But they faced a tough audience: Serb residents of a Sarajevo suburb held the first in a series of planned demonstrations against the plan, and others vowed to burn down their homes if they were forced out.
Ratko Adzic, a former Bosnian Serb police chief, warned that Serbs would fight to defend their homes and property.
``The people of Serb Sarajevo simply have nowhere to go unless America offers us a new city in Ohio where we all can move,″ the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA quoted Adzic, who now heads the local ``war council″ of the Sarajevo suburb of Ilijas, as saying.
Under the peace agreement reached in Dayton, Ohio, Sarajevo becomes Bosnia’s reunited capital. Bosnia will be subdivided in half _ one part run by the Bosnian Serbs, the other by a Muslim-Croat federation.
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who represented the Bosnian Serbs at the talks, reportedly persuaded Bosnian Serb leaders to accept the plan. Those leaders on Friday set out reluctantly to persuade their citizens.
Nikola Koljevic, a Bosnian Serb leader who participated in the peace talks in Dayton, appealed to recalcitrant Serbs to accept ``a historic task″ and finally reach a compromise which leads to peace.
Speaking on Montenegro television, Koljevic, a possible successor to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, conceded that NATO deployment in Bosnia to enforce the Dayton agreement would be the hardest nut to crack for the Serbs.
``Those who yesterday bombed our people now become peacemakers,″ he said. ``The wounds are still fresh and our main problem will be to persuade our people to accept NATO on our soil.″
In Belgrade, sources said Milosevic met Friday with Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic and Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic in the swank Dedinje district.
No details were announced. But the three were believed to have weighed their options in the event that defiant Serbs of Sarajevo do something to jeopardize the peace agreement _ and with it the suspension of economic sanctions on Yugoslavia, now consisting of Serbia and Montenegro.
Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, made no comment as he met with leaders of the ``war councils″ of Serb-controlled Sarajevo districts in Pale.
The closed-door meeting went into the night amid clear signs that the Sarajevo Serbs, who have borne the brunt of the war in the capital’s front-line districts, were resisting pressure to fall in line.
SRNA reported that ``several hundred″ flag-waving students, joined by Bosnian Serb soldiers, demonstrated in the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza against the peace agreement. SRNA said similar protests were planned in Vogosca and Grbavica on Saturday.
Many Sarajevo Serbs have said they’re ready to die if the Dayton agreement takes effect. Others told reporters they’d burn their homes in case they are forced to leave.
Rajko Koprivica, a Vogosca leader, said for ``no price″ would Serbs allow all of Sarajevo to be given to the Bosnian federation.
``Only those who have bled ... could decide our fate,″ he said. ``The voice of 120,000 Serbs from Serbian Sarajevo has to be honored, especially because the bloodiest war was waged″ around the capital, he was quoted as saying by SRNA.
Anger over 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 Mrkonjic Grad and Sipovo, areas that are to be returned to the Serbs under the Dayton agreement, U.N. officials said.
The region was recently captured from the Serbs in a joint offensive by Muslim-led government and Croat forces. The United Nations said it was ``extremely concerned″ and expressed hope those were isolated incidents.