BERSERKISTAN

Berserkistan Navigator Thousands of Angry Veterans
Storm Bosnian Parliament
Demanding Pensions, Aid

About 4,000 veterans traveled in buses from all over
the country to join Friday’s protest, chanting,
‘This country is no good!’

SARAJEVO, July 27 (AP) -- Thousands of angry Bosnian war veterans, many on crutches or in wheelchairs, converged on parliament Friday to demand the government pay back pensions and other state aid.

"We have fought for this country! We are ready to grab weapons and fight against this government if necessary!" one veteran shouted.

The government owes the veterans and families of soldiers killed in the 3˝-year war about $52 million in back pensions, according to Amir Kriko, president of the veterans’ group that organized the protest. He said the vets, who are entitled to up to $20 a month, have received no state aid for the past seven months.

About 4,000 veterans traveled in buses from all over the country to join Friday’s protest. Chanting "This country is no good!" they demanded a meeting with President Alija Izetbegovic. Some tried to force their way into the parliament building, but were pushed back by police. A shaken Izetbegovic abruptly left a meeting with Iran’s vice president and told the crowd their demands would be met except for the overdue pension payments. "We just don’t have it," Izetbegovic said.

Idriz Zukan, who was wounded in the war, said the group gave the government a list of demands a month ago but officials were unresponsive. He said he, his wife and child had not received the $3 a month they were entitled to for seven months.

The Bosnian president was swept into the middle of the crowd, many of whom waved Bosnian flags and his picture and tried to touch or kiss him. "Remove the thieves, Alija!" the protesters shouted, pointing at parliament. "Clean this building." A distressed-looking Izetbegovic told them: "This country has enormous problems. We have a big crisis in Mostar. There could be another war down there."

Kriko read a list of demands, including immediate payment of overdue pensions and benefits, free medical care and public transportation, and special status for their veterans’ group. After consulting with the prime minister, Izetbegovic promised a two-month payment by Wednesday.

The veterans also asked the government to cancel business contracts made during the war by people who fled the country and are now returning to run businesses. "We, who honestly defended this country, want to be equal citizens," Kriko said.


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