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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbs Threaten Moslem Sarajevo Plan

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- A Bosnian Serb leader warned Thursday that Sarajevo Serbs could take up arms if plans to reunite the city under a Moslem-led government are not postponed.


The warning highlighted vehement Serb resistance to the Bosnian peace accord that envisions Sarajevo's reunification by March 19. It came on the heels of the first meeting since the war began of rebel Serb officials with Moslem leaders in the government-held part of the city.


"There could be new clashes," if the hand-over of Serb-held districts to the government is not postponed until Sept. 15, said Momcilo Krajisnik, a Bosnian Serb leader, in remarks reported by the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA. He said Wednesday's talks, mediated by the civilian administrator of the peace process, Carl Bildt, were "useful," but "could not be prolonged forever."


Under the accord, signed Dec. 14 in Paris, four main Serb-held districts of Sarajevo are to come under government control. But tens of thousands of Serbs may flee, fearing ill-treatment or revenge by the government.


In the Serb-held area of Grbavica, southwest of the center, an AP photographer reported seeing five or six houses burning. The owner of one of them, who refused to give his name, said: "No Moslem is going to live in my house.'' Smoke was also seen rising from the Serb-held area of Hotonj to the northeast.


If the transfer of power is not postponed, "a certain number of Serbs will leave Sarajevo," Krajisnik said. "Those who stay might organize armed resistance.''


Krajisnik's comments marked one of the most serious warnings of the consequences if unification of the city is not postponed as Serbs have repeatedly demanded.


The Serb negotiator at Wednesday's meeting, Maksim Stanisic, president of the executive board of "Serb Sarajevo," said: "We have to work fast, and we agree that there is goodwill in the beginning to solve the problems."


"There were some big battles here, many people have suffered, [and] it will take time ... so that people can feel safe enough to make their free decision whether to stay or to go,'' Stanisic said, also hinting at an extension of the deadline.


Wednesday's meeting also was significant because it came only a day after an anti-tank rocket fired from the Serb-held Grbavica district hit a streetcar, killing one woman and wounding 19 people.


Bildt called the meeting "historic'' and said mutual trust should be restored to try persuade Serbs to stay. But he ruled out any extension of the March 19 deadline.


The government representative at the talks, Sefkija Okeric, said the meeting started the reintegration process of Sarajevo.


NATO officials dismissed Tuesday's rocket attack on the downtown streetcar as an isolated incident without official Bosnian Serb backing and rejected government calls for punitive action.