Karadzic signs peace with Bihac: Muslim enclave reaches 'lasting' agreement with Bosnian Serbs

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The Independent Online
FIKRET ABDIC, the leader of the breakaway Muslim enclave of Bihac, signed a 'treaty of lasting peace' with the Bosnian Serb chief Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade, recognising his secessionist Serb state in Bosnia.

The peace declaration between Mr Abdic's self-proclaimed Autonomous Province of north-west Bosnia and Mr Karadzic's fiefdom dealt another blow to the authority of Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian President, over the embattled Muslim community in Bosnia.

This may explain why the Serbian news agency, Tanjug, said that Slobodan Milosevic, the President of Serbia, was 'visibly in a good mood' after leaving the celebration lunch with his new Muslim allies. 'I am only sorry that President Izetbegovic was not with us here today,' Mr Milosevic said.

The night before, Mr Abdic was just as busy signing treaties in Zagreb, where he unveiled a similar- sounding peace deal with the Bosnian Croat leader, Mate Boban, and his political patron, the President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman.

Mr Abdic proclaimed the break with Sarajevo last month after the Muslim-dominated Bosnian parliament turned down the latest peace deal of the international mediators Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg for Bosnia, splitting the republic into three ethnic-based entities.

Despite the optimistic declaration in Belgrade, the 'treaties of lasting peace' between Mr Abdic and the secessionist Serb and Croat states will not do much to end the war in Bosnia. Bihac and the rest of Muslim-held Bosnia remain firmly in the grip of forces loyal to Mr Izetbegovic. Serbs and Croats may pretend otherwise, but Mr Izetbegovic remains the only Muslim leader they can negotiate with to end Bosnia's vicious civil war.

Mr Abdic's nugget-sized fiefdom comprises only the towns of Velika Kladusa and Cazin. His forces control only one-third of the Muslim-held Bihac pocket in north-west Bosnia, which all told is no bigger than Anglesey.

This has not stopped the ambitious chief of the Bosnian food processing giant Agrokomerc from styling himself 'president' and from setting up what amounts to an independent state. This 'state' is equipped with its own parliament, police force and news agency.

Former Yugoslavia is a land where presidents lie thick on the ground. Alongside the recognised presidents of the six former Yugoslav republics are President Hadzic of the self-proclaimed republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia; President Karadzic of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia; President Mate Boban of the Republic of Herzeg-Bosna in Bosnia; and President Rugova of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo inside Serbia.

(Photograph omitted)