Saving Sarajevo: 'If Bosnia is partitioned, war will go on': Rasim Delic, leader of Bosnia's Muslim army, tells Alfonso Armada of 'El Pais' why he has little confidence in the EC

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The Independent Online
RASIM DELIC, the leader of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim majority, insists that any division of his country on ethnic lines will not stop the war. In an interview in Sarajevo, Mr Delic said: 'If Bosnia is divided into three ethnic states, the conflict will go on'

Mr Delic, 44, is not a fundamentalist. Born in Celic, not far from Brcko, in the north of Bosnia, Mr Delic replaced Sefer Halilovic as leader of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina in early June. Mr Delic comes from the ranks of the Yugoslav national army. 'First I am Bosnian, only then a Muslim,' he said.

His view that the conflict will continue if Bosnia is partitioned contradicts that of his President, Alija Izetbegovic, who has shown himself willing to accept partition in exchange for peace.

Q: If Bosnia's integrity is not respected at Geneva, will the only outcome be a military one?

A: There are two possible outcomes. The first, that the international community obliges the aggressor to respect the resolutions and the documents and calls a ceasefire. This would mean respecting the integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the return of displaced people and a halt to 'ethnic cleansing'. This would mean respecting the Bosnian state as it has been recognised by the international community. This would be the cheap solution and would be less costly to Europe and the victims here.

The second is to lift the embargo so that we can fight against the aggressor, which has a powerful army and continues to receive arms, despite the embargo and sanctions.

Q: But after 16 months of aggression which no one has stopped, do you still have any confidence in Europe?

A: I think that Europe can still do something, although personally I do not have confidence in the European Community, nor do I think it will help Bosnia. But UN resolutions are approved to be implemented.

Q: But if the resolutions are not implemented, Europe does not intervene and the embargo is not lifted, what can you do?

A: Up to now, the Bosnian state has always defended the negotiations. If the rest of the world calmly looks on while Bosnia is destroyed, we will continue fighting. No one has the right to share out what is not theirs. (Croatia's President) Tudjman and (Serbia's President) Milosevic can divide up only their own countries.

Q: But what would happen if Alija Izetbegovic agrees in Geneva to the division of Bosnia into three states to achieve peace?

A: Izetbegovic cannot sign this document on his own. This document has to be ratified by the people of Bosnia. As a soldier and a Bosnian patriot, I want Bosnia to have a just peace. The solutions that are being proposed from outside, like the confederation of three states, will lead to war. Who has the right to prevent me from entering my own country to visit my parents' tomb?

Q: But this means that under no conditions would the Bosnian army accept partition?

A: If the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina into three ethnic states is approved, the war will go on because partition would mean the justification of 'ethnic cleansing' and violence.

Q: And if Izetbegovic accepts it in Geneva?

A: I am a member of the presidency and I know that the presidency is not going to sign without consulting the other state bodies. The Bosnian Army forms part of the presidency and the policy of the presidency must be that of the Bosnian state, so the army is in favour of a Bosnian policy. The delegation which is negotiating peace will be presented with a Bosnian initiative, which includes a federal state.

Q: The army has to confront a new alliance formed by the HVO (the Croatian Defence Council) and the Serbian radicals, and suffers very serious attacks in Maglaj, Zepce, Brcko, Mostar, Trnovo and Igman, on the outskirts of Sarajevo. How do you evaluate the current military situation?

A: The Bosnian army, after 16 months of war, is in a very delicate situation, and the aggressor has not stopped for a minute. And furthermore, there is now the extremist sector of the HVO, which wants to occupy territories under its control. But the HVO cannot make headway unless it can count on the material support which it gets from Croatia. Faced with this, the only outcome for our army is to keep on fighting. The fact that we keep on fighting after 16 months, practically without arms in very difficult conditions, is testimony that people who want a just peace cannot be destroyed.

Q: What do you think of the six 'safe areas' decreed by the UN?

A: The 'safe areas' came into force on 22 July and on 23 July we suffered one of the fiercest assaults on Sarajevo. This means that the mechanism of the UN is not that strong, nor is it capable of implementing its resolutions. Unprofor (UN Protection Forces in former Yugoslavia) asks us to come to an agreement with the aggressors, which is nothing more than a fantasy. If we could reach agreement with the aggressor, we would not have war. It is necessary to create a mechanism for impementing resolutions.

(Photographs omitted)

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