Letter: Serbs have simply learnt from bitter experience

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EDMUND BURKE argued that no man can draw up an indictment against a whole nation. Tony Barber obviously disagrees as he vilifies us and our efforts to defend Serbs' national rights and physical existence in the face of threats arising from the break-up of the Yugoslav state for the second time in our lifetime ('What makes the Serbs the way they are', 9 May).

Mr Barber accuses us of delusions. As a small nation surrounded by powerful neighbours, we have been placed in a position of having to respond to outside pressures, assaults and divide and rule, a goal of great-power politics. This is no delusion but learnt from experience.

The Serbian leadership after the First World War did not press for the creation of a Yugoslav state. On the contrary, this was forced upon us by the Allies as part of their geo-political strategy for containing Germany, Hungary and Russia. Then it was the Croats and Slovenes who wanted a Yugoslavia, to have the Serbian army defend them against Italian aggression. The then prime minister, Nikola Pasic, prophetically opposed the plan and instead proposed a Great (not Greater) Serbia to include all Serbs and as few minorities as possible, but was overruled.

Second, the Muslims' desire to establish an Islamic fundamentalist state is not an 'allegation' but an unfortunate fact. Mr Barber ignores President Alija Izetbegovic's 'Islamic Declaration', which explicitly calls for a pure Islamic state modelled ater Pakistan, on which he fought the elections with support from the religious hierarchy. To ignore it is like ignoring Hitler in the 1930s, which is precisely what Neville Chamberlain and his media chorus did when they damned the Czechs at such cost.

We shall not make the Czechs' mistake.

Rajko Bogojevic

Charge d'Affaires

Yugoslav Embassy, London W8