Berserkistan Navigator Bosnian Serb News Agency
Denies Karadzic is Stepping Down

By Kurt Schork

SARAJEVO, May 19 (Reuters) — The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA poured cold water on Sunday over claims by Bosnian mediator Carl Bildt that he had secured the "beginning of the end" of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. But Bildt told journalists in Sarajevo on Sunday night that Karadzic's continued tenure of office, in contravention of peace accords, cast a dark shadow over the political structures of the Bosnian Serbs. People around Karadzic realised this.

Aides of Bildt, who is the major powers' representative for Bosnia, say Bildt was promised by Bosnian Serb parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik that Karadzic, a wanted war criminal, would "step out of public life and will not be seen or heard." But SRNA quoted sources close to Krajisnik as saying such statements were unfounded and were just another attempt to put pressure on the Bosnian Serb leadership.

The flurry over Karadzic's future arose from his appointment of his hardline deputy Biljana Plavsic to act for him "in contacts with the international community and other delegated activities."

"We believe this is the beginning of the end of the influence of Dr Karadzic on the political scene," Bildt's spokesman said earlier. "Mr Bildt is continuing to ensure that this sidelining of Dr Karadzic is ratified and consummated."

Bildt told journalists in Sarajevo on Sunday evening he did not expect any immediate change in Bosnian Serb policy. But he added: "It is a fundamental point that those who have been indicted by the tribunal should not hold public office. That's a central element of the (Dayton) peace agreement. Non-compliance on this particular issue casts a very dark shadow over the political structures of the Republika Srpska. To take that dark shadow... away is clearly something that an increasing number of very centrally placed people around Mr. Karadzic and to a certain extent Mr. Karadzic himself seem to realise must be done."

According to SRNA, sources close to Krajisnik said that "The talks with the international community are not secret. They are being conducted by a four-member delegation of the Republika Srpska, so that speculation of this kind is completely unfounded."

Bildt's hopes had been greeted with scepticism by political sources in Pale, where the Bosnian Serb government is based, and in Belgrade, although the state controlled media of Serbia- dominated rump Yugoslavia took the Bildt view.

The main Belgrade daily Politika, which is a mouthpiece for Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, reported Karadzic had quit after leading Bosnian Serbs through a four-year struggle against Bosnian independence. The Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said Karadzic had handed the presidency over to hardline deputy Biljana Plavsic although this was not contained in Karadzic's official statement.

The Bosnian government in Sarajevo took a wait-and-see attitude. "The information is disputable and there are signs indicating that this is only a political manoeuvre," said President Alija Izetbegovic's office. "There is only one appropriate place for Karadzic and (military chief Ratko) Mladic, the bar of justice of the international tribunal for war crimes at the Hague."

Bildt's office acknowledged that Karadzic's statement, which made no mention of resignation, was unclear and said he was seeking clarification. Bildt consulted Milosevic and spent Saturday night in Pale discussing its meaning with Bosnian Serb leaders.

Over the past few days Karadzic has dismissed his prime minister, Rajko Kasagic, for getting too close to Bildt, and replaced him with by hardliner Gojko Klickovic who promised a much tougher approach. In his first public statement after his appointment on Saturday, 40-year-old Klickovic said he saw no reason for Karadzic to appear for trial by the U.N. war crimes tribunal. He dropped plans to weed hardliners out of the government and ruled out the early return of Muslim and Croat refugees to their homes on Bosnian Serb soil, a key element of Dayton.

Klickovic said that in contrast to his predecessor, he would insist firmly that "all rights and obligations contained in the peace agreement should be exercised reciprocally. Everything that we implement must be implemented according to the same principle and to the same extent by the Muslim-Croat federation," he said, adding that the "Serb side will not lead the other side by a single millimetre in the realization of any of the annexes of the Dayton agreement."

Analysts, trying to untangle the contrasting reports, believe that even if Karadzic would take a lower profile, there was no hint that he would be surrendered to The Hague. Plavsic was chosen in preference to the more moderate Vice-President Nikola Koljevic and the all but unanimous vote in parliament for Klickovic showed the hardliners' ascendancy.

The international community's obsession with Karadzic has obscured the reality that he is a symbol of Serb power. His departure would not necessarily change policies in Pale, where other hardliners are just as determined to wreck elections due in September to create democratic inter-ethnic institutions in Bosnia.

Krajisnik, an experienced politician and nationalist, has always been at least as influential in shaping the Serb drive for separatism and determination to undermine the peace deal. He ranks higher than Plavsic in the Pale pecking order.

Additional resources
Berserkistan, May 19 · Bildt: Beginning of End for Karadzic
Berserkistan, May 19 · Is Karadzic Really Gone? Officials, Media Scramble for Answers
Berserkistan, May 19 · Bosnian Serb News Agency Denies Karadzic is Steping Down
Berserkistan, May 19 · Karadzic the Gambler Plays Desperate Game of Survival

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