Bosnian Serbs refuse to bury past

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The Independent Online
WHILE the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, was in Greece yesterday raising hopes for peace in former Yugoslavia, some of his closest associates were literally raising the dead.

Senior members of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic, including the 'vice-president', Biljana Plavsic, chose to mark news of Mr Karadzic's approval of the Vance- Owen peace plan with a trip to Bosanski Brod, a village in northern Bosnia where exhumation was under way on a grave of Serbs supposedly massacred by Muslim troops.

According to the official news agency, Tanjug, 40 bodies were exhumed from a shallow grave in Bosanski Brod on Saturday. A pathologist was quoted as saying that many of the remains showed signs of torture, 'broken skulls and deformities of other parts of their bodies'. 'All Serbs were killed while Brod was controlled by local Muslims who terrorised the Serb population, as they also do in other towns which are under their control,' the agency said.

There is little doubt that news of the exhumation, which began shortly after Mr Karadzic left for Athens to attend an international summit conference on Bosnia, will inflame Serbian passions. That Ms Plavsic and others chose yesterday to visit the area is a clear sign of the battle Mr Karadzic faces to convince his people to ratify the plan.

It was exactly one week ago yesterday that Mr Karadzic first promised to secure the approval of his fellow Bosnian Serbs for the Vance- Owen peace plan. According to political sources close to the Yugoslav leadership, a few hours after he left Belgrade last Sunday for his parliament in Bijeljina with a vow to back the plan, an exasperated Mr Karadzic telephoned his mentor, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, with bad news.

'There is no way they will agree. If I continue to press they will kill me,' he was quoted as saying. The parliament then went ahead and snubbed Mr Karadzic and, more importantly, Mr Milosevic, who has since fought back with a campaign to bring Bosnian Serbs to heel.

It is widely believed in Belgrade that the pressure from President Milosevic will be sufficient to guarantee that Bosnia's Serb parliament will ratify the plan when it meets in Pale on Wednesday. As the Bosnian Serbs' only patron, Mr Milosevic can deny his client warlords food, funds, fuel and weapons.

None the less, Mr Karadzic is the one that must meet the parliament and his associates and the relatives of those 40 people killed in Bosanski Brod. Already there have been calls by Bosnian Serbs for their leader 'to explain himself'.