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Bosnian Serb PM to be fired over independence hopes

September 19, 2006 1:26 PM

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina-The top international administrator in Bosnia said he will fire the Bosnian Serb prime minister if he continues to speak of a secession referendum in the Serb-run half of the country.

As part of his campaign for the Oct. 1 general election, Milorad Dodik has repeatedly called for a referendum that would enable the Serb-run ministate, Republika Srpska, to secede from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"If he continues to talk about the referendum, I will have to remove him from office," Christian Schwarz-Schilling, the international administrator, told Austrian radio in an interview Monday.

The post of international administrator was established to oversee implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war. The high representative has the right to intervene in disputes and fire government officials as high as the president if necessary to ensure the accord is followed.

The peace agreement that ended the war left the country divided into two ministates, one run by Bosnian Serbs and the other shared by the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. Each has its own government and police force; they are linked only by joint state institutions, including the country's three-member presidency.

The campaign leading up to next month's local and national elections has been especially bitter, with politicians focusing much of their rhetoric on the country's ethnic divisions and other problems left unresolved from the war.

With his talk of a vote on separation, Dodik seems to be trying to appeal to Bosnian Serbs' lost hopes of having their territory absorbed into Serbia. Bosnia's civil war erupted when the country's ethnic Serbs revolted against Bosnia's independence from the disintegrating Yugoslavia.

In August, vandals blew up a graveyard monument to Bosnia's wartime Muslim leader, Alija Izetbegovic, the man Bosnian Muslims credit with the country's independence.

Dodik, a moderate nationalist, has said on a number of occasions that Bosnian Serbs do not see their future as part of Bosnia. Under the postwar constitution, no part of Bosnia has the right to secede.

"Let him (Schwarz-Schilling) be my guest and sack me. I stand by everything I said about the referendum," Dodik told local media.

Dodik said his calls for a referendum are a reaction to calls by Bosnian Muslims for the Serb Republic to be dissolved and folded into the rest of a united Bosnia.

The Bosnian Muslim member of the three-person presidency, Sulejman Tihic, has suggested the Serb ministate cannot continue to exist forever, saying it was established on the basis of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

"Talk about a referendum is only a way to tell Sarajevo to stop that kind of rhetoric. The insults coming from there have become unbearable," Dodik told The Associated Press.

Dodik added that Schwarz-Schilling should resist what he said was the "stereotype (of) 'good boys, bad boys,' whereby the Serbs are always the bad boys."

Dodik accused the West of double standards in allowing negotiations to take place to determine whether Kosovo will become independent from Serbia, while rejecting the idea of an independence referendum for Bosnia's Serbs.

If Kosovo is granted independence, "people here will see that similar situations have different solutions. They will recognize that the international community has double standards," Dodik told the AP.

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