Bosnian Serb party walks out of ruling coalition

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia, Feb 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Bosnian Serb Socialist party said on Sunday it was leaving the three-party Sloga coalition government of Bosnia's Serb Republic, dealing a blow to its Western-leaning prime minister.

The party said in a statement it would stay in the Sloga-led government, but would work independently of other parties or coalitions and would replace its five ministers. It also said it would operate independently of any coalition in parliament.

The party's main board said it took the action because it did not have the support of the other two parties in Sloga (Unity) - the Independent Social Democrats of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and the Serb National Alliance of Biljana Plavsic.

The Socialist party, seen as close to the Socialist party of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, blamed Dodik.

"The prime minister is the most responsible for the situation in the coalition, the main board's decision and the possible consequences," the party said.

Sunday's move came after Dodik sacked two senior Socialist officials from their positions, including a government minister.

Dodik's government took power in early 1998 from hardliners loyal to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic.

Sloga, strongly supported by the West, has 28 seats in the 83-seat parliament. Ten of those belong to the Socialist party.

A rival, hardline bloc made up of the Serb Democratic Party and the Radical party has 30 seats.

Sloga has been able to remain in power thanks to the support of two small Bosnian Serb parties, and of Moslem deputies elected mainly by refugees. The next general elections are due in the autumn.

Postwar Bosnia consists of two autonomous regions - the Serb Republic and the Moslem-Croat Federation, each with their own governments and parliaments.

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