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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Karadzic Backers Threaten UN Police

SARAJEVO -- Bosnian Serbs have threatened to detain UN police if the NATO-led peace force makes any effort to arrest war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, UN officials said Monday.

The warning appeared linked to international pressure to force Karadzic to resign as president of his ruling Serbian Democratic Party, or SDS, or see the party banned from Sept. 14 elections.

It also was a reminder of Serb treatment of UN troops during the Bosnian war. Last year, hundreds of UN soldiers were held hostage against NATO air strikes.

Robert Frowick, a U.S. official who leads the team organizing Bosnia's elections, reiterated his warning Monday that SDS faces a total ban if Karadzic remains its head. Elections are being run by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Sunday the organization delayed the start of campaigning from Monday until Friday.

"If the campaign starts on Friday, you can be sure that things must be straightened out by that date," Frowick said.

UN spokesman Alexander Ivanko said threats against UN police were made last week by a senior Bosnian Serb police chief in Pale, Karadzic's stronghold just southeast of Sarajevo.

Ivanko would not identify the official, but quoted him as warning that UN police officers would be "detained or harmed if there was an operation to try and detain Radovan Karadzic."

"It seems that the honeymoon that we enjoyed with Republika Srpska is over," Ivanko said. "We see a certain pattern of violence emerging."

Late Friday, one UN police station in Vlasenica, in Serb-controlled territory northeast of Sarajevo, was damaged by a bomb. Another was broken into.

Ivanko said the United Nations was considering whether to press for the dismissal of the Serb officer, and was examining its own security arrangements.

Frowick reiterated his tough stand against Karadzic -- who is under indictment by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands -- remaining the head of his party.

"It is my unalterable position that any political party that elects, appoints or maintains in office a person who is under indictment from the international tribunal ... shall be ineligible to participate in elections," he said.

He described the decision to delay the campaign as a last chance to comply.

Republika Srpska, the name Bosnian Serbs give their self-proclaimed republic, "has the opportunity to play by the rules of the game that were set forth in the peace agreement," Frowick said. "I just hope that it grasps this opportunity for its own sake."

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy who negotiated the Dayton peace deal, will return to the Balkans this week to emphasize that Karadzic must go.

Elections are a key element in the international effort to patch Bosnia back together after 3 1/2 years of war.

Karadzic's party has nominated a slate of candidates that supports his nationalist agenda of breaking off Serb-held territory from that held by Muslims and Croats.

If Karadzic remains head of the party and it is allowed to compete, Bosnian officials say they will boycott the elections. Bosnian Serbs say they will refuse to participate if the party is banned.

International officials said Bosnian Serbs had refused to take part in binding arbitration over the future of the strategic town of Brcko in northern Bosnia.