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Serbs Defend Boycott of Aid Conference
Say Republika Srpska will not Yield to Blackmail
SARAJEVO, April 13 (Reuters) — A senior Bosnian Serb leader defended his government's boycott of an international reconstruction conference in Brussels this weekend, vowing Serbs would never give in to what he termed "blackmail." The Serbs had refused to attend as part of a single Bosnian delegation, insisting instead on the right to independent representation, a demand conference conveners rejected.

"It looks like political pressure by economic means and I think this is a mistake," Bosnian Serb Vice-President Nikola Koljevic told reporters on Friday evening in the Serb stronghold of Pale near Sarajevo. "I can only say that Serbs were always sensitive to anykind of blackmail... Serbs traditionally stick to what they agreed... This is not something we agreed to in Dayton."

The Dayton peace agreement initialled last November brought peace to Bosnia after 43 months of war, preserving the country as a single sovereign state made up of two entities: a Muslim- Croat federation and a Serb republic.

The European Union and the World Bank convened international donors in Brussels on Friday and Saturday to secure $1.2 billion in addition to $600 million already raised for the first year of a planned five-year reconstruction program for Bosnia.

Separate Representaion Would be Win for Hardliners
Granting the Bosnian Serb delegation the right to attend the conference separately would have been a big concession to hardliners who remain dissatisfied with the terms of the Dayton accord and harbor hopes of total independence.

Bosnian Serbs, whatever Koljevic might say, continue to violate key provisions of the Dayton agreement, including one requiring them to surrender indicted war criminals. Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and his army commander, General Ratko Mladic, have both been twice indicted for war crimes by a U.N. tribunal.

They remain in their positions despite being banned from holding public office under the Dayton accord. Jovan Zametica, a top adviser to Karadzic, cited the same reasons for the Serb boycott of the Brussels meeting as Koljevic and further claimed that the Serbs had never been sent a formal invitation.

Republika Srpska Had Planned to Attend
The Republika Srpska had intended to send a four-member delegation with detailed proposals for more than 2,000 reconstruction programs, Zametica said in a statement faxed to foreign news agencies. "(But) the government of the RS was asked to attend as a sub-delegation of the self-appointed Muslim government in Sarajevo. A clumsy attempt was thus made to... push the RS into a constitutionally subordinate position relative to its former enemies. It is as if Dayton never happened," he said.

Dayton had clearly established two very separate entities, Zametica said. "We shall fight tooth and nail to defend this constitutional arrangement, especially in the light of the fact that the RS made tremendous territorial and political concessions for the sake of peace," he said.

"The Brussels conference is in fact less about reconstruction and more about underpinning the Muslim-Croat federation, the sick man of the Balkans. Even so, representatives of the RS would have gone to Brussels but for the cynicism, hypocrisy and perfidy which are abundantly present in some quarters of the international community," Zametica wrote.

Additional resources
Bosnia Aid Conference Tops $1.2 Billion Target
Yugoslavia Contributes $10 Million in Aid
The World Bank

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