ABC News
Croatia vote creates historic chance - Bosnia Moslem


SARAJEVO, Jan 27 (Reuters) - A Bosnian Moslem leader said in an interview published on Thursday that a democratic Croatia and a weak Serbia represented a historic chance for the future of Bosnia, situated between its two Balkan neighbours.

Alija Izetbegovic, the Moslem member of Bosnia's collective presidency, told the daily Oslobodjenje: "Now we have both -- a democratic Croatia in the west and a weak Serbia in the east -- and this is a historic chance for Bosnia."

"After the conflict in Kosovo and the NATO-led air strikes, Serbia has become even weaker than I expected and changes in Croatia are much faster and deeper than one could hope," Izetbegovic was quoted as saying.

He said he expected relations between Bosnia and Croatia to improve following this month's crushing election defeat of the nationalist HDZ party of late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, paving the way for the centre-left opposition to take power.

"It will be my priority to improve relations between Bosnia and Croatia...and to open a new era of versatile cooperation with this neighbouring and friendly country," Izetbegovic said.

"I hope that I will meet the same willingness on the other side," he said.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been under strain during and after the Moslem-Croat war in 1993, when Zagreb acted as a patron of Bosnian Croats.

Western envoys in Bosnia often accused HDZ of meddling in Bosnia's internal affairs and of working to undermine the Dayton peace treaty that ended the 1992-1995 war by dividing Bosnia into a Moslem-Croat federation and a Serb republic.

Izetbegovic said nationalism had first emerged in Serbia and Croatia and that it must also start disappearing there.

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]