Bosnian Serbs want secession if Kosovo goes -- poll

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia Wed Nov 21, 2007 3:29pm GMT

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BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - A large majority of Bosnian Serbs believes their republic should secede from Bosnia if Kosovo declares independence from Serbia, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday.

The survey by the Banja Luka-based Partner agency, published in Novi Reporter magazine, said 77 percent of a sample of 850 voters believed Serbs should break away from Bosnia if Kosovo Albanians secede from Serbia.

The poll coincides with the 12th anniversary of the Dayton peace pact, which created a Bosnia of two parts from the enemies of the 1992-95 war in which over 100,000 were killed.

Serbs got half the country and a Muslim-Croat federation the other half. Suspicions still run deep and relations are poor.

Diplomats say Serbia, with Bosnian Serb connivance, is now actively stoking fears of the breakup of Bosnia in a bid to make the West think twice about supporting Kosovo's independence.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on Wednesday blamed Bosnia's international overseer for provoking "crisis" in the country by violating the Dayton Accords on power-sharing between Serbs, Muslims and Croats.

Criticising a directive by Miroslav Lajcak aimed at circumventing political blocking tactics, Kostunica said "it is obvious that those measures were wrong".

"Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the international community has made a wrong assessment when making decisions in the Balkans, and those decisions have created numerous crises," he told Belgrade's Vecernje Novosti newspaper.

Lajcak's directives should be cancelled, he said.

THREAT TO DAYTON DEAL

The Bosnian Serb Prime Minister, Milorad Dodik, says Lajcak's measures "could lead to the systematic outvoting of one constituent people" and are therefore an attack on Dayton, which guarantees Serb autonomy.

He also denies any threat to hold a referendum on secession from Bosnia in retaliation for the secession of Kosovo.

However, the possibility of such a referendum is now raised with regularity including by Dodik who muses that people would demand such a step.

Kostunica -- who was visiting Dodik in Banja Luka on Wednesday for an event to mark the anniversary of Dayton -- has overtly linked the futures of Kosovo and Bosnia, speaking of an "open threat to the Serb people" from Western powers.

Former U.S. ambassador in the Balkans William Montgomery has said he believed this was done on purpose to show "the international community mistreating Serbs not only in Kosovo but in Bosnia".

The result was to solidify in Serb minds a definite linkage between the two cases, he wrote at the weekend in the Serbian daily Danas, so that a declaration of independence by Kosovo could lead to further Bosnian Serb challenges to Lajcak or "even an effort to stage a referendum on independence for" the Bosnian Serb Republic.

Kostunica say Belgrade will back the Serb Republic.

"Serbia's government supports in principle the stand of the Bosnian Serb government and its institutions to fully protect the Serb Republic's status," he told Vecernje Novosti.

"As a signatory, thus a guarantor of the Dayton Agreement, Serbia has full and legitimate right to insist on full implementation and respect of the agreement."

A senior diplomat actively involved in the region says Serbia will do whatever it can to show Kosovo cannot function.

"One of the ways will be through destabilising Bosnia, making the international community fail there as well."

(Reporting by Ljilja Cvekic, Matt Robinson, Igor Ilic and Maja Zuvela; writing by Douglas Hamilton, editing by Richard Meares)

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