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Kostunica says West threatens Serb people
Daniel McLaughlin
Saturday, October 27, 2007 1:26 AM
Irish Times

Serbia: In angry rhetoric reminiscent of the final days of Yugoslavia, Bosnia's Muslim and Croat leaders have denounced Belgrade for making its twin goals the protection of Serbs in Bosnia and the prevention of Kosovan independence.

Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica said a Western-backed plan for a sovereign Kosovo and moves by Bosnia's international administrator to streamline its political system represented an "open threat to the essential interests of the Serb people".

"Preserving Kosovo and Republika Srpska are now the most important goals of our state and national policy," said Mr Kostunica, a nationalist who until recently governed with the support of the Socialists formerly led by Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Kostunica said plans to change Bosnia's federal voting rules to prevent proposals being blocked by boycotts of parliament along ethnic lines would breach the 1995 Dayton peace deal, in the same way as Kosovan independence would violate a United Nations resolution.

He said Serbia would "give all its support" to Republika Srpska and its nationalist prime minister, Milorad Dodik, who has threatened to withdraw his party from the federal government if the voting reform goes ahead.

Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the ultra-nationalist Radicals, who are Serbia's most popular party, said yesterday that "a referendum in Republika Srpska for its joining Serbia is inevitable".

The Socialists, meanwhile, said Serbia "should recognise the independence of Republika Srpska" if Kosovo does secure independence in the coming months.

The prospect of another drastic redrawing of Balkan maps, and the chaos and potential bloodshed it would cause, is a nightmare for Washington and Brussels and prompted a sharp response from Bosnia's non-Serb leaders.

"Vojislav Kostunica's statements represent a flagrant interference in internal matters of Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Bosnian Muslim leader Haris Silajdzic.

"Their clear goal is the simultaneous culmination of crises in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, at the moment when the Kosovo issue is being decided" in a bid to "maximise (Serbia's) position in negotiations on Kosovo", he said.

Bosnian Croat leader Zeljko Komsic said Mr Kostunica's statements "finally reveal Belgrade's murky political games" and warned him to "keep his hands off Bosnia, or his fingers and his nose could be broken."

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