September 19, 1996 in Nation/World

Muslim’s Election Sparks Hope In Bosnia Izetbegovic’s Party Has Insisted The Country Remain United

Associated Press

A glimmer of hope that Bosnia can stay whole emerged Wednesday, with presidential election results showing Muslims united around their leader and a surprising number of Serbs abandoning extreme nationalism.

After a campaign that played on divisions wrought by 3-1/2 years of war, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic won the most votes for the three-person presidency in Saturday’s elections - 729,034 votes.

His Muslim Party for Democratic Action had insisted that Bosnia remain united and multiethnic - even though it adopted increasingly nationalist tones during the campaign.

Izetbegovic, 72 and with a history of heart trouble, will chair the presidency for a two-year term. He will be the point man for international officials eager to help knit the divided country together again.

His success could determine how long a NATO-led peace force stays in Bosnia. The current force, some 48,000 troops from 35 countries, including 15,000 Americans, arrived last December for a year. A smaller force seems certain to stay on.

“We will not abandon Bosnia,” NATO Secretary General Javier Solana vowed Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium. He refused to speculate on the post-December mission.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the present U.S. contingent in Bosnia plans to pull out by year’s end, but he did not rule out some kind of American presence beyond then. He also called to congratulate Izetbegovic.

In Sarajevo, hundreds of honking cars jammed the streets Wednesday, with green-and-white ruling party flags flapping and passengers flashing victory signs. Bystanders cheered.

Izetbegovic, first elected president in 1990, appeared briefly outside his office, smiling and shaking hands with the crowd.

International officials met with Izetbegovic and urged him to cooperate with his Serb and Croat partners in the presidency - Momcilo Krajisnik, who received 690,373 votes, and the Croats’ Kresimir Zubak, who won 342,007.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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