UN defuses anger over Kostunica visit

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Yugoslavia's new president averted a diplomatic debacle by meeting Bosnia's political leaders yesterday, defusing anger over a decision to use his first visit to the country to attend the reburial of a prominent Serb poet.

Yugoslavia's new president averted a diplomatic debacle by meeting Bosnia's political leaders yesterday, defusing anger over a decision to use his first visit to the country to attend the reburial of a prominent Serb poet.

International officials hastily convened the meeting between Vojislav Kostunica and Bosnia's multi-ethnic presidency in an effort to ease anger among the country's other ethnic groups that he would taint his inaugural visit by giving it ethnic overtones. Kostunica had intended his visit to the reburial ceremony of Jovan Ducic to be private - a reflection of his devotion to the author's staunch anti-communist principles and literary grandeur.

Instead, the man who toppled Balkan strongman Slobodan Milosevic in elections on 24 September, discovered that Croat and Muslim members of the country's multi-ethnic presidency were outraged by the move. They considered it to be an insult that the new leader who pledged to improve relations between the two countries would choose a trip with nationalistic overtones on his first visit to the country. He is the first Yugoslav leader to visit since the end of Bosnia's three and a half year war.

Kostunica's timing, however, alarmed international officials, as it comes only three weeks before national elections in Bosnia. The officials fear extremists may use the vote to promote Serb nationalism.

A day before Kostunica's arrival in the small town of Trebinje, Bosnia's top international official, Wolfgang Petritsch, persuaded Kostunica to take part in a symbolic 30-minute meeting with the multi-ethnic presidency. UN officials sent a helicopter to fly him to Sarajevo for the talks. (AP)

Comments