Home > 1997-1999 from the Balkans, Bosnia, Serbia, Yougoslavia > KARADZIC REJECTED REPORTED U.S. DEAL


August 13, 1997

Author: Guy Dinmore, Special to the Chicago Tribune – Wednesday, August 13, 1997

Biljana Plavsic, beleaguered president of the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia, said her powerful hard-line rival, Radovan Karadzic, has rejected a U.S. offer that would have removed him from Bosnia but allowed him to avoid prosecution for war crimes by the UN tribunal in The Hague.

Plavsic said the proposal was made by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a June 2 meeting the two held in Banja Luka in northwest Bosnia   “She said that within two weeks they expected me to tell the media that Radovan Karadzic had left Republika Srpska, and that I didn’t know where he was,” Plavsic said in an interview Monday night.  The Bosnian Serb president said she went to Karadzic’s heavily guarded headquarters in Pale, near the capital of Sarajevo, to relay the offer but was rebuffed by Karadzic, her rival in a power struggle that threatens to split the impoverished Bosnian Serb entity.

The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo said it was not aware of any such offer to Karadzic by a U.S. official. The State Department said its policy on seeking prosecution of suspected war criminals in The Hague, Netherlands, remained unchanged.

“I’m really sorry he lost this chance. I think this kind of offer was reasonable. . . . His reaction was full of animosity toward me,” Plavsic said, adding that she also was against turning over Karadzic to the United
Nations tribunal in The Hague even if she had the power to do it.

Karadzic has been charged by the UN International Criminal Tribunal with committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war. Despite his removal from office last year, the former psychiatrist and arch-nationalist continues to dictate Bosnian Serb politics from his stronghold in Pale and is seen by the international community as the main obstacle to implementing the U.S.-brokered accords that ended the war.

Plavsic said Albright had not revealed any details of where Karadzic would go.  His voluntary “disappearance” would avoid the need for a dangerous operation by NATO troops that, apart from possible loss of life, would likely lead to reprisals and exacerbate the political crisis in the Bosnian Serb entity,
undermining Plavsic.

Albright’s offer appeared to be the “last chance” for Karadizc, Plavsic said, as Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton peace accords recalled into service by President Clinton, did not repeat it during his
visit last week to Banja Luka.U.S. envoy a year ago but never adhered to by the hard-line Serbs. Holbrooke said he insisted to Serb leaders in Belgrade that Karadzic should be brought to justice.

A NATO strike against Karadzic, who is protected by special police units, has become more likely since British troops last month pounced on two Bosnian Serbs wanted for war crimes in the Prijedor area near Banja Luka. One was killed when he opened fire on his captors. President Clinton gave his backing to the operation that undermined Plavsic, casting her in the image of a traitor to the Serb cause.

The U.S. and its European allies have thrown their support behind Plavsic in her power struggle with Karadzic. Despite her wartime record as a fervent Serb nationalist, Plavsic, a former biologist and Fulbright scholar, is seen as a more moderate force and publicly committed to implementing the Dayton

Holbrooke’s foray and the renewed U.S. diplomatic push are driven by the June 1998 deadline for the removal of more than 30,000 NATO-led troops, including 8,000 U.S. soldiers, from Bosnia. Some Western governments have made it clear a force must remain if Bosnia is to remain at peace.

Not far from Plavsic’s presidential office in Banja Luka is an open field
overgrown with grass, all that remains of the once-splendid 15th Century
Ferhadija Mosque that was razed by Serb nationalists during the war.

Most of Banja Luka’s Muslims were driven out of Bosnia’s second biggest
city, and despite her stated commitment to the peace process, Plavsic said
she saw little prospect of their early return. Priority, she said, had to be
given to Serbs displaced from Croatia and parts of Bosnia under control of
the Muslim-Croat Federation.

Plavsic has accused Karadzic, her former mentor, and his allies of running
smuggling rackets and undermining her authority. She dissolved the Bosnian
Serb parliament last month after she failed to sack her hard-line interior
minister and faced demands for her impeachment.

She announced the formation of her own party after the ruling Serb
Democratic Party expelled her and this week called parliamentary elections
for October. The ruling party may boycott the voting, and the Bosnian Serb
entity could become further polarized.

The Bosnian Serb constitutional court met Tuesday in Pale to consider
whether Plavsic had the authority to dissolve parliament and call early

Plavsic remains confined to the northwestern part of Bosnia under her
precarious control and has only limited influence over the weakened Bosnian
Serb army and the more powerful police force that remains largely loyal to

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