Plavsic Divides Bosnian Serb Military

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The tussle for power in the Serb half of Bosnia intensified Tuesday, with half the army's top generals supporting President Biljana Plavsic in her attempt to wrest power from indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.


Four of the Serbs' eight top army commanders met Plavsic in her stronghold of Banja Luka in northwestern Bosnia.


Those who stayed away included army chief of staff General Pero Colic, a deputy of his and the commanders of the two army corps in the eastern half of Bosnia, which is under the control of Karadzic and his allies in their stronghold of Pale, just east of Sarajevo.


The boycott by four generals suggested that the army, like all other Bosnian Serb institutions, is split in the struggle between Karadzic and Plavsic, a Serb nationalist and former Karadzic ally who now accuses him of getting rich while his people starve. Comments attributed by pro-Karadzic media to Colic, the present chief of staff, indicate he supports Karadzic.


Colic was attending a meeting near Sarajevo Tuesday with NATO officials and his Moslem and Croat counterparts. Spokesmen for the NATO-led peace force said he would be reminded that the military should stay out of the Karadzic-Plavsic tussle.


Bosnian Serb army sources said ahead of Plavsic's meeting with the generals that she would name a replacement for Colic. Her favorites were General Momir Talic, commander of the Banja Luka-based 1st Corps, or General Novica Simic, 3rd corps commander, the sources said. Talic and Simic both attended the talks with Plavsic.


Although Plavsic says Serbs should settle the power struggle by themselves, the peace force and international envoys have given her key backing. Hundreds of British and Czech soldiers with the force intervened last week to foil an alleged attempt to oust her.


On Tuesday, force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Wright said a peace force regiment has deployed near a key transmitter on Mt. Kozara, where, he said, the force and other international organizations have equipment.


Pro-Karadzic police on Monday thwarted an attempt by pro-Plavsic forces to take over that transmitter and use it for their new TV station. Control of the transmitter would enable them to broadcast deep into Karadzic territory.


Banja Luka TV has broken with the Karadzic-controlled Pale studio. Other media, the police and parliament also are now split between the rival camps