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Serbia Claims No Role in Bosnian War
Asks World Court to Dismiss Genocide Suit
THE HAGUE, April 29 (Reuters) — Serbia urged the World Court on Monday to throw out Bosnia's genocide suit against it, saying Belgrade had played no part in the Bosnian war. The U.N. court was holding a new round of hearings on Bosnia's 1993 genocide suit against Yugoslavia which now consists of just two republics, Serbia and Montenegro. Serbian representative Rodoljub Etinski said the conflict in Bosnia had been a civil war fought by its three main ethnic groups: Muslims, Serbs and Croats. "The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia took no part in this civil war and did not have territorial jurisdiction in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Etinski said.

Bosnia says Serbia played an active role in the war and breached the 1948 Genocide Convention by arming and supporting separatist Serbs in Bosnia. Bosnia's representative, U.N. ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey, told reporters it was important to pursue the case despite last year's Dayton peace agreement which ended the war. "In order for reconciliation to take place and the peace to be durable and lasting... that's the significance of the case," he said.

Sacirbey: Dayton Doesn't Clear
Belgrade of Responsibility

Sacirbey said the Dayton agreement could not alleviate the Belgrade government's responsibility for genocidal killing of Bosnian Muslims. Etinski said the U.N. court should reject the case because Bosnia's secession from Yugoslavia had been illegal and the Muslim-led government did not represent all of Bosnia's people. "We maintain that the secession of Bosnia and Herzegovina was not in conformity with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples," Etinski said.

The secession had violated Yugoslavia's territorial integrity and breached the rights of the Bosnian Serbs, he said. Furthermore Bosnia's case was backed only by the Muslim and Croat federation, not by the Bosnian Serb republic which was also recognised under the Dayton agreement. Bosnia should therefore be barred from bringing the case as a successor state to the former Yugoslavia, Etinski argued.

Sacirbey, speaking to reporters, dismissed this, saying his government was recognised by the United Nations and by most states. "The only people that seem to contend our existence are the Serbian authorities," he said. "They seem to have taken back everything they have signed in Dayton."

Serbia is contesting the court's jurisdiction to hear the case and this week's hearings are limited to that issue. Bosnia will present its arguments on Wednesday and the court is expected to announce a decision in several months' time on whether it can deal with the issues at the heart of the case. The case predates the establishment of the U.N. criminal tribunal for former Yugoslavia which has jurisdiction over individuals responsible for genocide and war crimes.

The World Court — formally known as the International Court of Justice — is the main judicial body of the United Nations. It settles disputes between states in accordance with international law.

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