Serbs elect moderate

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The Independent Online
The election of a moderate Bosnian Serb government won prompt international support yesterday and set the stage for a final reckoning between Serb pragmatists and their hardline nationalist rivals.

The Bosnian Serb parliament broke new ground when it elected a coalition government led by Milorad Dodik, the pro-Western leader of the Independent Social Democrats. Mr Dodik's election was bitterly opposed by hardline nationalists, who boycotted the vote. The new prime minister was nominated by Western-backed Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, who has been waging a power struggle against the hardliners for months.

Carlos Westendorp, the international High Representative to Bosnia, hailed the new government as a step forward: "This is a government the international community can work with," his spokesman said.

Mr Dodik became the first politician in Bosnia to hold high office without links to one of the main nationalist parties which have dominated politics for the past seven years. He secured a majority by gaining support from Bosnian Muslim deputies who had been shunned by Serb nationalists.

The election of Mr Dodik's government followed months of United States- led pressure; Washington and its European allies accused the hardliners of obstructing efforts to build a stable peace in Bosnia.

Balkan analysts said Mr Dodik would soon be tested by the hardliners, who retain tight control over the police and local media in the eastern half of Serb territory.

- Reuters, Bijeljina

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