West criticises Bosnian Moslem over rally speech

SARAJEVO, Mar 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) Western peace envoys criticized Bosnian Moslem leader Alija Izetbegovic on Tuesday for what they called "highly inflammatory language" he had used at an election rally last week.

Izetbegovic was reported as saying at the Sarajevo rally on Friday that the real enemies of his Party for Democratic Action (SDA) were Chetniks and Ustashe - the World War Two Serbian and Croatian pro-fascist paramilitary groups, respectively.

The names have been used by some Bosnian Moslems during and after the country's 1992-95 war to brand those Bosnian Serbs and Croats whom they accused of trying to split Bosnia and fight for unification with Serbia or Croatia.

"The liberty to campaign is not the same as a licence to slander," international High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch and Robert Barry, the head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission, said in a joint statement.

Izetbegovic chairs Bosnia's three-man inter-ethnic presidency and heads the SDA, which is taking part in the April 8 municipal elections organised by the OSCE.

"The stereotyping of other political movements and parties as "Ustashe" or "Chetniks" damages the prospects of coexistence, forgiveness and reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina," the statement from Petritch and Barry said.

"The high representative and the OSCE head of mission expect that this will not occur again," it added.

The West hopes the local elections, the second since the war ended, will undermine the nationalist parties' decade-long grip on power.

Zivko Radisic, the Serb member of the presidency, criticised Izetbegovic's words as damaging for the country's peace process while Bosnian Serb deputies in the lower house of the state parliament boycotted Tuesday's session citing security reasons.

Original article