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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bildt: Karadzic Still Firmly in Power

SARAJEVO -- The Bosnian Serbs won't attend a key international fund-raising conference because they set unacceptable conditions in a worrying sign that Radovan Karadzic is still firmly in power, international officials said Thursday.

Colum Murphy, spokesman for the top civilian administrator of Bosnia's peace, Carl Bildt, said Bildt's office interpreted the new conditions the Serbs announced Wednesday as an effective boycott of the conference starting Friday in Brussels.

He said he believed Karadzic, an indicted war criminal, was behind the decision and that it could threaten Bosnia's NATO-policed peace accords.

Bildt, the Swede charged with implementing the civilian side of Bosnia's peace deal signed last December, had announced Wednesday the Serbs met international demands on releasing all prisoners of war. That meant they could attend the conference, which is gathering 60 potential donor nations to raise $1.2 billion in emergency reconstruction aid for Bosnia.

But the Bosnian Serbs' designated premier, Rajko Kasagic, then said his side would show only if its delegation was separate, not part of the Bosnian delegation as planned.

In a letter to Bildt, Kasagic demanded "separate and equal representation'' with the Moslem-Croat Federation that controls 51 percent of Bosnia under the peace plan.

Murphy said the letter made it clear the Serbs "would not in fact attend tomorrow's donors conference."

Bosnia's war erupted in 1992 over Serb refusal to stay in an independent Bosnia where they were outnumbered by Moslems and Croats.

Bildt wrote back to Kasagic, reminding him he had agreed to the delegation formula at a March 30 meeting in Banja Luka. "I now understand you no longer stand by that agreement," said Bildt in his letter. "This is no longer the international community excluding the Republika Srpska, it is the Republika Srpska excluding itself."

Hardliners are grouping around Karadzic, the leader who is one of 57 indicted war criminals not supposed to hold power under the peace deal. Karadzic's main power base is Pale. The NATO force is supposed to arrest Karadzic and Mladic if they find them.

The donors' conference is key to stabilizing Bosnia's tenuous peace, Western diplomats say.

They believe the economy must be on the road to recovery before some 52,000 NATO soldiers implementing the peace deal leave by year-end.

Donors have already pledged more than $600 million to a target of $1.8 billion target set by the World Bank and the European Commission for this year.