CEOL - OSCE postpones local elections in Srebrenica

SARAJEVO, Dec 11, 1999 -- (Reuters) The OSCE said on Friday it had decided to postpone by six months next year's municipal elections in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, scene in 1995 of an alleged massacre of thousands of Moslem men.

A spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said it took the decision because multi-ethnic municipal authorities were only established in the town in June after 20 months of negotiations.

"Consequently, the current authorities' term in office would have been less than 10 months, preventing them from addressing substantive issues such as refugee return and reconstruction, which require continuity," spokeswoman Tanya Domi said.

The town's present inhabitants are Virtually all Serbs but Moslem parties won a major share of the vote in 1997 municipal elections, thanks to votes cast by Moslem refugees.

Even though multi-ethnic authorities were set up last summer, progress in their work has been slow.

Moslem deputy municipal secretary Munib Hasanovic was stabbed in October by two masked men in the municipal building.

He and other Moslem officials live with their families in other parts of Bosnia and travel to Srebrenica during the week for municipal meetings. Bosnia's second municipal elections after the 1992-1995 conflict are scheduled for April next year.

But Friday's ruling by the OSCE, which oversees elections in post-war Bosnia, means that the Srebrenica poll will not be held until October. Bosnian Serb forces overran the town, declared a U.N. safe area in 1993, in July four years ago. Its capture was allegedly followed by the massacre of thousands of Moslem men, seen as the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two.

About 7,000 men are still missing, presumed dead.

Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic were indicted in 1995 by the U.N. war crimes tribunal over their alleged role in orchestrating the killings.

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