January 18, 2017 / 2:02 PM / 7 months ago

Bosnian Serb leader wants U.S. ambassador declared persona non grata

FILE PHOTO: Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik at a ceremony in Stanari near Doboj, Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 20, 2016.Dado Ruvic/File Photo

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia, (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said on Wednesday he was proud of being blacklisted by the United States for obstructing a 1995 peace agreement and called on Bosnian authorities to declare the U.S. ambassador persona non grata in retaliation.

The U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control imposed sanctions against Dodik on Tuesday, blocking access to his assets and banning any U.S. national from doing business with him.

"I am very proud, and these sanctions are the proof that I was not ready to trade off with the interests of Republika Srpska," Dodik told reporters in Banja Luka.

Dodik is president of the autonomous Serb region Republika Srpska, which was created by the U.S.-brokered 1995 Dayton accords he is accused of trying to block.

He has come under fire from foreign officials for advocating the region's secession from Bosnia, statements that have stirred tension among the ethnic groups who fought the 1992-95 war that was ended by the Dayton agreement. More than 100,000 people died in the war.

Claire Bodonyi, the French ambassador to Bosnia, said other European Union member states would decide whether to follow the lead of the United States in the coming weeks.

Dodik said his region has been "under attack of the arrogant outgoing U.S. administration which is pro-Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and militarist and anti-Serb".

The U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, Maureen Cormack, "is an enemy of the Serbs, she is not welcome to the Serb Republic," Dodik said, calling on Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak to declare her persona non grata in the entire country.

The Dayton peace treaty left Bosnia divided between the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, which are linked by a weak central government.

Divisions have deepened since Jan. 9, when the Serb Republic pressed ahead with its own Statehood Day celebrations, defying a constitutional court ban.

Dodik said he hoped President-elect Donald Trump's administration would bring about changes in U.S. foreign policy. "We do hope that new administration will introduce the politics of stabilisation in Bosnia."

Last week, the Bosnian Serb government halted contact with Bosnia's top international peace envoy, demanding an apology for what it called insulting remarks about their disputed national holiday [L5N1F25E4].

Bosnia's security minister, Dragan Mektic, called on Dodik to resign, saying that U.S. sanctions against him were "humiliating for Republika Srpska."

But the sanctions may bolster Dodik's position, political analyst Srdjan Susnica said.

"They will only strengthen his image of the Serb leader, which could have a far-reaching consequences if he presses ahead with the idea of secession and some announcement that he might form his own police and army," Susnica said.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela and Gordana Katana; Editing by Ivana Sekularac, Larry King

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