(SARAJEVO, April 7Reuters) Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, in an address to his nation hinting at approaching elections, promised to reward soldiers for their war efforts and criticized outside interference in Bosnia. In a 90-minute television interview on Saturday night Izetbegovic said he did not believe war would restart in Bosnia and rejected criticism that he was wrong to sign the Dayton peace deal and should have kept fighting.
Would Sign Dayton Accord Again
"I would sign Dayton (the peace accord) again," he said, reminding viewers of their suffering during the 43-month war. "I don't think there will be a second half (to the war) although I was not a good forecaster in the past... If there is, they (separatist Serbs) will lose it," he said.
The interview was the latest in a number of indications in the last week that Izetbegovic is reasserting power after heart problems hospitalised him in late February. The 70-year-old former lawyer, with an eye to his electoral chances, promised war heroes they would soon receive credits they could use to pay taxes or purchase government housing.
But Izetbegovic refused to confirm he would, as is widely expected, run for the presidency of Bosnia in elections that should take place, under the terms of the country's peace deal, by September at the latest. "It depends on my recovery," he said. "I haven't made a decision yet."
Problems Blamed on Croatia and Serbia
Izetbegovic said many of the problems Bosnia was enduring in the post-war period were the result of interference by her powerful neighbors, Croatia and Serbia, the patrons of Croat and Serb communities living in Bosnia. "They don't allow us to put our country in order. The traces lead to Belgrade and Zagreb."
The peace deal struck in Dayton, Ohio, last November kept Bosnia a single state made up of a Muslim-Croat federation and a Bosnian Serb republic. Many analysts say the unity is a fiction and Bosnia is fast becoming no more than a rump Muslim state caught between separatist Croat and Serb entities.
As evidence they point to tensions between Muslims and Croats in their fragile federation and difficulties in persuading the Bosnian Serbs to implement any part of the Dayton deal that brings them closer to their former foes.
Rebukes Croat Complaints
In less-than-conciliatory words for his Croat allies, Izetbegovic rejected Croat complaints they were being treated like second-class citizens in Muslim-dominated areas. He pointed to Catholic schools and churches in Muslim communities and contrasted it to the destruction of mosques and expulsion of Muslims by Bosnian Croat ultra-nationalists.
Izetbegovic complained that Croatia's defence minister Gojko Susak had pointedly promised to protect the interests of Bosnian Croatsas if their sovereignty took precedence over the state of Bosnia. "I'm not satisfied with Croatian politics because of their strong elements of interference in the internal affairs of Bosnia."
Izetbegovic did not speculate on his chances at the polls but predicted that former prime minister Haris Silajdzic's split from the ruling Muslim SDA party would not win him power. Silajdzic would only win if he could unite opposition elements in Serb and Croat parts of Bosnia, which was unlikely. Silajdzic's revolt will only undermine the interests of Bosnian Muslims in national polls, Izetbegovic said. A joint declaration by the two men this week to try to bolster the cause of Bosnia's unity did not amount to a coalition, he added.
Berserkistan is a world news service of Michael Linder Productions, Inc.
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