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Bosnian Serb Leader Vows To Stay

March 12, 1999

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The fired Bosnian Serb president vowed Thursday to stay in office, and he threatened violence against the foreign officials who dismissed him and ended Serb jurisdiction over a key Bosnian city.

``We are ready with a different kind of defense, if democratic principles are not applied,″ Nikola Poplasen said. ``The defense ... will include other arguments: sticks, stones, arms and tanks.″

U.S. Balkan envoy Robert Gelbard warned Poplasen against violence.

``Unfortunately, we have a very sad history with terrorists like Mr. Poplasen,″ he told reporters in the north Bosnian city of Banja Luka. ``We will hold him personally responsible for any attack against American citizens. Believe me.″

Carlos Westendorp, the chief international official in Bosnia, earlier this month fired the ultranationalist Poplasen, saying his hard-line policies opposed to ethnic reconciliation jeopardized the Bosnian peace accords signed in 1995.

Another international decision _ throwing the city of Brcko open to joint Serb, Croat and Muslim administration and ending unilateral Serb control _ angered even moderate Serb leaders opposed to Poplasen.

``I have to act according to the will of the people and the constitution,″ Poplasen said. ``I will continue performing my duty as I’m doing now.″

Both decisions triggered wide protests by Bosnian Serbs. Following threats against them, NATO-led peacekeeping troops heightened their state of readiness and increased patrols.

Poplasen was fired after he refused to appoint moderate Milorad Dodik as prime minister. Dodik has been serving in a caretaker role since Poplasen won September elections.

On Thursday, Poplasen called Dodik ``an instrument of foreign powers, which want to break up″ the Serb substate.

Another moderate and the Bosnian Serb member of the country’s joint presidency, Zivko Radisic, also denounced ``all such terrorist threats, regardless where they come from.″

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