Bosnian Serb party says it's not YU puppet

SKOPJE, Feb 23, 2000 -- (Reuters) A political party that pulled out of the Bosnian Serb ruling coalition has rejected allegations its decision was influenced by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The Bosnian Serb Socialist party, seen as close to the identically-named party of Milosevic in neighboring Yugoslavia, confirmed on Tuesday that it would stay in government despite leaving the Sloga (Unity) coalition.

Sloga will now comprise just Prime Minister Milorad Dodik's Independent Social Democrats and the Serb People's Alliance of former President Biljana Plavsic.

The head of the Socialist party, Zivko Radisic, who is also a member of Bosnia's three-man inter-ethnic presidency, said the party was often wrongly criticized for its relations with Milosevic's party.

"I state that the Socialist party was nobody's extended hand," Radisic told a news conference in the Bosnian Serb capital Banja Luka.

He was referring to the accusation by Dodik on Monday that the Socialists decided to quit the Sloga coalition under the influence of a congress of Milosevic's party held in Belgrade last week.

Radisic said his party has only advocated special relations between Bosnia's Serb entity and Yugoslavia, as agreed under the Dayton peace treaty that ended the Balkan country's 1992-1995 war.

The Socialist party said on Sunday it was leaving the three-party coalition because it lacked support from the other two parties.

Even though the Socialists said they were not leaving the Western-leaning government, the party had urged its four ministers to resign. But Dodik on Monday said the ministers had agreed to stay on and Radisic confirmed that on Tuesday.

The West's top envoy Wofgang Petritsch praised the Socialist ministers' decision.

"The High Representative is encouraged to see that some Socialist party officials are putting the interests of Republika Srpska and its citizens above self-interested party politics," Petritsch's spokeswoman Alexandra Stiglmayer said.

Radisic dismissed Dodik's calls for the resignation of the parliament speaker Petar Djokic, who is a member of the Socialist party, saying there was no reason for him to leave his post.

Sloga, strongly supported by the West, has 28 seats in the 83-seat parliament. Ten of those are held by the Socialist party. The coalition has had a parliamentary majority thanks to the votes of Moslem and Croat deputies in the assembly.

Post-war Bosnia consists of two highly autonomous entities - the Serb republic and the Muslim-Croat federation.

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