Multi-cultural ideal dealt blow by resignation

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The Independent Online

Europe Editor

Bosnia's ruling party, the Muslim-dominated Party of Democratic Action (SDA), appears to have succeeded in forcing the resignation of Haris Silajdzic, the Prime Minister, and a leading advocate of an integrated, multi-cultural Bosnian state.

On Sunday he said he intended to quit because Muslim nationalists in the SDA had forced a vote through parliament limiting the authority of the new Bosnian central government to be set up under last month's Paris peace settlement.

SDA leaders nominated Hasan Muratovic, a minister without portfolio, to replace Mr Silajdzic. Mr Muratovic is not an SDA member and is not associated with the Muslim nationalist wing of Bosnian politics, but even so the resignation of Mr Silajdzic would deal a blow to moderate Muslim political forces striving to restore some of Bosnia's pre-war multi-culturalism.

Under the Paris deal, Bosnia is to have three governments: a central one with relatively weak powers for the whole country, and a government each for the Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian Serb republic into which Bosnia is to be physically divided. Mr Silajdzic wanted the central government to have seven ministers, but the SDA bloc in parliament passed a vote limiting it to six.

At the root of the dispute were contrasting visions of post-war Bosnia. Mr Silajdzic has emphasised the need to reconcile Muslims and moderate Croats and Serbs, but SDA nationalists want greater efforts to promote Bosnia's Muslim identity.

Many Bosnian Croats believe the SDA would seek to dominate the Muslim- Croat federation. "The more Muslim leaders talk of a multi-ethnic, multi- cultural, multi-religious Bosnia-Herzegovina, the more a Jamahiriya [Libyan- style government] is being established on territories controlled by Muslim forces," said a Bosnian Croat radio editor, Ivan Krizdic.

Bosnian newspaper reports suggested that Mr Muratovic was unhappy at the way the SDA had pushed out Mr Silajdzic, but would nevertheless agree to accept the premiership. Mr Muratovic, 55, is a former academic and businessman..

Mr Silajdzic is likely to be followed out of government by the Foreign Minister, Muhamed Sacirbey, who said two months ago that he would resign.