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Bosnia: Serb leader backs down on referendum under EU pressure

last update: May 13, 17:27

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Sarajevo, 13 May (AKI) - Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has backed down on holding a referendum on the abolition of the federal court and state prosecutor’s offices after talks with European Union chief for security and foreign policy Catherine Ashton on Friday.

Dodik, president of Serb entity Republika Srpska (RS) has called for a referendum to scrap the offices, accusing them of prosecuting only war crimes committed by Serbs, while ignoring those committed against Serb civilians by majority Muslims.

Ashton arrived to Sarajevo Thursday evening where she talked with international envoy Valentin Inzko and Muslim and Croat leaders. After talks with Dodik in RS capital Banjaluka on Friday, she said the EU was willing to help in resolving the dispute.

“All legitimate questions deserve a serious analysis and adequate answer,” she said. “Mr. President, you and I agree that constructive dialogue is the best way to move forward, I’m glad and expect that dialogue in the future,” she told Dodik.

Inzko, who has wide arbitrary powers in Bosnia, including imposing laws and sacking of elected officials, has said he would annul the RS parliament ruling by referendum if Dodik didn’t withdraw it.

But analysts said it would only further deepen the crisis, because Dodik has threatened to pull out Serb representatives from all from all federal institutions.

According to the Dayton peace accord that ended 1992-1995 war, Bosnia was divided into two entities, the RS and a Muslim-Croat federation, with most state powers. But the international community has gradually stripped entities of powers to strengthen central government.

Dodik told journalists he was pleased with Ashton’s assurances to correct the shortcomings in judiciary system through a dialogue and said he would ask parliament to call off the referendum.

“After today’s talks, I believe that we have a credible collocutor who has accepted our concern on the functioning of judiciary system and is ready to engage all its credibility in that process,” Dodik said.

“We want to give a serious and definite chance to the proposed dialogue,” Dodik said. “This has created realistic chances for resolving the problem and we therefore believe that referendum for now isn’t indispensable,” he concluded.

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