Bosnian Serb MPs reject planned border police

SARAJEVO, Jan 13, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Western-sponsored plan to set up a multi-ethnic Bosnian border police to fight smuggling and other cross-border crime was defeated in parliament on Wednesday when it was rejected by Bosnian Serb deputies.

Bosnian radio said 10 Serb deputies in the 42-seat lower house of parliament voted against the legislation, which needed the backing of all three ethnic groups in the former Yugoslav republic to be adopted. Muslim and Croat deputies supported the new law.

Western peace-keeping officials reacted with disappointment to the vote. A spokeswoman for Bosnia's international High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said he was now likely to use his wide powers to impose the legislation.

Spokeswoman Alexandra Stiglmayer said the establishment of such a multi-ethnic force was crucial for the country's integration with the rest of Europe. Western officials say smuggling is a big problem and illegal immigration is starting to become one.

The head of the U.N. mission to Bosnia, American diplomat Jacques Klein, accused Serb deputies of obstructionism.

In a statement, Klein said the vote showed there were those who did not take their elected offices seriously and put their private financial interests and political prejudices above the welfare of the people they were elected to represent.

"Secession is a dead dream - it is time for the politicians to face reality and not lead the people down another blind alley," Klein said. "The obstructionism of local officials cannot be allowed to destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Post-war Bosnia consists of a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb republic, each enjoying wide autonomy.

The proposal to establish a joint border force is particularly controversial in Bosnia's Serb half, where nationalists fear it could take away powers from their own regional government.

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