Belgrade rejects 'neutral status' of Brcko

BELGRADE, Mar 17, 2000 -- (AFP) The Yugoslav government attacked Thursday the EU and US brokered agreement to declare the disputed town of Brcko a neutral zone with a multi-ethnic council, state agency Tanjug reported.

"This imposed decision ignores any possible solution to the dispute which would equally respect the rights and interests of all three nations in Bosnia," the government said in a statement to Tanjug.

Robert Farrand, the international community's appointed supervisor, gave Brcko a neutral statute on March 8.

The "Brcko District of Bosnia and Hercegovina" will be run jointly by Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs and placed under the exclusive sovereignty of the Bosnian state.

The town was taken over in 1992 by the Serbs during Bosnia's three year civil war. Since 1995, the municipality has been divided between Bosnia's two post-war entities -- the Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS) and the Muslim Croat Federation -- but the town itself is within the RS.

Yugoslavia supported the Bosnian Serbs during the war but has fallen out with its new reformist leadership under Milorad Dodik. Dodik replaced the ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen, who was dismissed from his presidential post last March 5 by former High Commissioner for Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp.

Belgrade has refused to recognise Poplasen's dismissal.

Belgrade said the decision to take Brcko out of the RS was "another attempt of imposing foreign political and strategic goals in Bosnia, opposed to legitimate interests of the RS and the Serbian people."

The district status "harmed territorial integrity and sovereignty of the RS and imposed new borders aimed at further dividing the Serb people in Bosnia," the Yugoslav government said.

The March 8 ceremony was attended by the High Representative in Bosnia Wolfgang Petritsch, the European Union's external affairs commissioner Chris Patten and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Three members of Bosnia's collective presidency, Muslim Alija Izetbegovic, Croat Ante Jelavic and Serb Zivko Radisic, also attended.

Original article