Serbia to rebuild links with Bosnia

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The Independent Online

Yugoslavia's new president, Vojislav Kostunica, will establish diplomatic relations with Bosnia, ending years of hostility with the breakaway state, he said yesterday on a brief trip to Sarajevo, the first such visit by a Yugoslav leader since Bosnian independence in 1992.

Yugoslavia's new president, Vojislav Kostunica, will establish diplomatic relations with Bosnia, ending years of hostility with the breakaway state, he said yesterday on a brief trip to Sarajevo, the first such visit by a Yugoslav leader since Bosnian independence in 1992.

Mr Kostunica met representatives of the Bosnian presidency at Sarajevo airport before travelling on to the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica. Speaking after the talks, Mr Kostunica said he was a firm defender of the Dayton peace accord, which put an end to the Bosnian war in 1995 and created a separate entity within Bosnia for the Bosnian Serbs.

But Dayton also established the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and Mr Kostunica has ruled out immediate co-operation with the tribunal, including the handing over of his predecessor, Slobodan Milosevic.

However, speaking in Sarajevo, Mr Kostunica said he recognised that the war crimes tribunal was "a part of Dayton, and we know that there are some elements which must be carried out".

He refused to apologise for Yugoslavia's role in the Bosnian war, saying he was not one of those politicians "who use empty words and apologise".

Earlier, Mr Kostunica had been in the southern Bosnian town of Trebinje for the reburial of the ashes of a Serbian poet, Jovan Ducic, who died in Chicago in 1943.

This is a sensitive time for a visit to Sarajevo as Bosnia has parliamentary elections on 11 November, and the Bosnian Serb nationalists are ahead in the polls. But Mr Kostunica made no reference to the elections, talking instead of making relations normal between Bosnia and Yugoslavia.

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