Bosnia accord faces twin threat

Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat authorities are flouting key provisions of the Dayton peace settlement at a highly sensitive phase of Bosnia's post-war development.

Their actions leave littledoubt that the Bosnian Serbs and Croats are seeking to block the implementation of Dayton and its aim of reuniting Bosnia as a multi-national state in its pre-war frontiers.

Last week Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal, was nominated by the Pale branch of his ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) for president of Republika Srpska, the Serb section of Bosnia. The nomination was a defiant response to the West's insistence that elections across the whole of Bosnia should take place on 14 September.

Bosnian Serb sources said last week that aides to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic - the region's most powerful politician and erstwhile mentor of Mr Karadzic - had ordered Mr Karadzic to resign by 25 June.

Mr Karadzic's nomination contravenes the Dayton accords, which ban alleged war criminals from running in the elections and holding public office. In a reaction that summed up the West's anger, Germany's Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, said: "Karadzic belongs before the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, not in the president's chair."

Mr Karadzic's nomination is viewed as an attempt by his wing of the SDS to torpedo the elections and thus disrupt the Dayton timetable for reintegrating as far as possible Bosnia's multi-national communities. Neither Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation nor Western governments will approve elections in which Mr Karadzic takes part, but that could provide the pro-Karadzic camp with an excuse to orchestrate a boycott of the polls.

Meanwhile, Bosnian Croat nationalists have struck a blow against Dayton by naming a new government for Herzeg-Bosnia, their self-styled state in southwestern Bosnia which was supposed to have been dissolved earlier this year in line with the Dayton agreement. The Bosnian Croats are evidently not ready to give up Herzeg-Bosnia, and the hope of merging the region with Croatia proper.

A known hardliner, Pero Markovic, was appointed the prime minister of Herzeg-Bosnia, and its defence minister was named as Vladimir Soljic - who, since he was defence minister in the Muslim-Croat federation, should never have accepted the new job.

Bosnian Muslim politicians were outraged that Mr Soljic should be so disloyal to the Muslim-Croat alliance. International authorities also expressed frustration.

"The number of hardliners in the so-called government [of Herzeg-Bosnia] is disquieting," said Colum Murphy, the spokesman of Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative for Bosnia. "It is an abhorrent new manifestation of their contempt for the Dayton agreement."

The recent actions of the Bosnian Croats, and the pro-Karadzic forces in Serb-controlled Bosnia, make it abundantly clear that both sides are still trying to find a way of arranging a three-way national partition of Bosnia. The Serb aim remains the unification of Republika Srpska with Serbia, just as the Croat aim remains the unification of Herzeg-Bosnia with Croatia.

Both appear to be calculating that the West's interest in Bosnia will not last as long as their own determination to realise their national dreams.

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