The leader of Bosnia’s Serbs declared peace Friday - but not in Serb sections of Sarajevo, complicating efforts to reunite Bosnia as the United Nations endorsed sending NATO peacekeepers.
Radovan Karadzic’s incomplete nullification of his war order was intended to show his commitment to peace while emphasizing bitter Serb opposition to reuniting Sarajevo under the rule of his Muslim and Croat enemies.
Balkan leaders signed a U.S.-mediated agreement Thursday that divides Bosnia into two regions - one controlled by Serbs, the other by a federation of Muslims and Croats. The regions will have a weak central government.
The nine Serb-held neighborhoods of Sarajevo are to be reunited with the rest of the capital under the Muslim-Croat federation.
Karadzic, indicted by a U.N. tribunal on war crimes charges, revoked a combat order issued to Bosnian Serb troops on July 28, the Serb news agency SRNA reported Friday. But he exempted Serb-controlled sectors of Sarajevo from the order.
In a late-night television appearance, Karadzic and other Serb leaders tried to assure their people that they had not lost the war.
“We accept this peace, but we will continue the political fight,” Karadzic said.
No fighting was reported Friday in Sarajevo, but there were fears that Karadzic’s defiance, mixed with tensions in Serb-held neighborhoods, would provoke more violence.
The city’s reunification is anathema to many of Sarajevo’s 70,000 to 80,000 Serbs. Many have threatened to flee, fearing reprisals for the relentless Serb siege of the city throughout the 3-year war.
To stave off a mass exodus, officials have hinted that there might be some flexibility in the timetable for handing over the Serb neighborhoods to the Bosnian government.
Aleksa Buha, a Bosnian Serb official, told Bosnian Serb television late Thursday that “the handover of Sarajevo will be postponed for a year or so.” Others spoke of three months.
About 60,000 NATO troops, including 20,000 Americans, are to take up positions in Bosnia to enforce the peace.
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to authorize NATO to go ahead with its operation, giving legal backing to the plan. The vote effectively shut down a U.N. mission that had failed to restore peace.