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News 14 Mar 12

Bosnian Serb Leader Threatens NATO Referendum

As Bosnia starts trying to meet the conditions of NATO's Membership Action Plan, the Bosnian Serb leader says he will call the referendum in his entity if actual membership comes on the agenda.

Elvira Jukic

Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, on Monday said if NATO membership for Bosnia becomes imminent, he will call a referendum in the entity to see if Serbs want to join the alliance.

Dodik said Serbs had had negative experiences with NATO whose forces bombed Serbs twice in the recent past, due to war in Bosnia and in Kosovo.

“NATO bombed Serbs twice, not only on military but also civilian positions,” Dodik said. “There are consequences from this even today related to the depleted uranium in those areas where bombs were thrown by NATO," he added.

"There are exact data showing an increase in the number of malignant diseases,” Dodik continued.

Alliance forces bombed Bosnian Serbs at the end of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia after Serbs threatened the UN proclaimed "safe area" of Gorazde in eastern Bosnia and rocketed Sarajevo's Markale marketplace in Sarajevo for a second time.

NATO then bombed Serb military positions with a view to ending the Bosnian war. But Bosnian Serb officials claim that civilian positions were bombed too.

Dodik said NATO was an important military alliance but when Bosnia's membership came up, citizens of Republika Srpska had a right to accept it or deny it in a referendum.

“If citizens say 'no' then all the politicians deciding on this will have to respect that decision,” Dodik said in a TV interview.

As yet, Bosnia is far from joining the alliance. It has yet to fulfill the terms of the Membership Action Plan, which include undertaking various political, judicial, economic and defence reforms.

The head of the NATO Department in Bosnia's Foreign Ministry, Momir Brajic, told Balkan Insight that future membership depends on Bosnia itself.

“The upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago in May will not be a summit of enlargement but we can expect that our [Bosnian] success will be welcomed in the summit declaration,” Brajic predicted.

Brajic said there was a positive mood in the international community that could lead to Bosnia joining NATO by around 2014.

Bosnia has already destroyed surplus ammunition and arms and had united the soldiers from both entities, the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, into one army.

“It is important to stress out that all countries in the region have the same foreign policy goals, which are EU and NATO membership, which will finally lead to the permanent stabilization in this part of Europe,” Brajic said.

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