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Bosnian Serbs may cancel referendum


Bosnian international administrator Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko (AP)

Bosnian international administrator Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko (AP)

Bosnian international administrator Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko (AP)

Bosnian Serbs say they are ready to cancel a referendum seen as the first step towards throwing off international control of their ethnic-mini state, according to its international administrator.

The referendum has been described as the greatest threat to peace in Bosnia since a 1995 treaty ended a devastating three-year civil war.

The referendum asks Serbs to voice their approval or disapproval of the actions of an administrator appointed by the United Nations Security Council to oversee the running of the nation, which was divided into ethnic Serb and Croat-Bosniak halves after the war.

Bosnian Serbs have been widely expected to vote against the administrator. That would allow the leader of their mini-state to ask its parliament to stop co-operating with the administrator and the federal court and prosecutor's office that the administrator created in 2005.

International officials are deeply fearful that, as a result, the Bosnia Serb mini-state could become a haven for war criminals and other fugitives from the law.

The international administrator, Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, said he had given Bosnian Serbs until the end of the week to cancel the vote planned for mid-June, or he would do it himself.

Mr Inzko, who answers to the Security Council, has almost unlimited power over Bosnia's state institutions under the US-brokered Bosnian peace treaty, which allows him to annul or impose laws or even fire local politicians, including presidents.

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He said the Bosnian Serbs had indicated that they were considering options ranging from calling off the referendum to postponing it, "so we will wait a few more days, but of course, it is clear that only to postpone the referendum is not enough".

Bosnian Serbs say the federal court is biased against them and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik wants to hold the referendum to reflect what he says is a widespread rejection of Bosnia's government institutions, especially the war crimes court.

Mr Inzko said none of the regions could question the powers of any federal institutions or his own powers, and therefore the referendum as such was not only illegal, but jeopardised the peace agreement and everything achieved since the 1992-95 war ended in Bosnia.

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