Karadzic stirs spirit of defiance

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A SPIRIT of defiance filled the Bosnian Serb headquarters of Pale yesterday, with officials and ordinary folk alike insisting they would not cave in to Serbian pressure to accept the international peace plan.

'We can survive on our own,' the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, said. 'We have our own state and the international community should recognise it. Then we'll see what territories we can give back.' Mr Karadzic, a psychiatrist, sees the breach with President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia as a learning experience: 'This kind of separation may mean maturity for these people and this state.'

His stance was supported by Gordana Djukic, a nurse selling lighters, nail clippers and other odds and ends in the Pale market. 'I am sure (the blockade) is a big mistake,' she said. 'Not by Belgrade, because they are under pressure from abroad . . . It's the international community. But it will be counter-productive: we won't sign, whatever they do.'

A single mother who spent two years as a nurse on the front line, she is ready to go back to war. 'I could be ready tomorrow morning to go with my comrades, to grab a rifle and stand shoulder to shoulder in the trenches,' she said. 'It doesn't matter whether Serbia takes us or not. We want to separate from the Muslims. And we will do it alone and survive until we are recognised.'

Velibor Ostojic, Bosnian Serb minister without portfolio, said his people were willing to suffer much for the motherland. 'The Srpska Republic salutes and supports (the Serbian blockade) if sanctions are going to be lifted from the back of Yugoslavia as a result.'

One Bosnian Serb official said: 'We still rely on Serbia, it's still our mother. Somehow or other we will be united.' But he had few illusions about the role of Mr Milosevic: 'This is Slobodan's way of getting rid

of Karadzic.'