'For us, the war is finished,' says leader of Serbs

October 10, 1993|By New York Times News Service

PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Serbian nationalists who have seized 70 percent of the country, has said that his forces consider the war in Bosnia to be over and has promised that his troops will not renew their attacks on Sarajevo and other strongholds of the Muslim-led government.

Mr. Karadzic said in an interview Friday night that the ethnic Serbian leadership planned to turn its efforts instead to rebuilding the shattered economy of the parts of Bosnia they control and mending relations with Bosnian Muslims.

"We are of the same blood; we are all Slavs," Mr. Karadzic said, speaking of Serbs and Muslims, who have been at the center of an 18-month-old war in which at least 200,000 people have died, the majority of them Muslims killed by Serbian forces. More than 1 million Muslims have also been driven from their homes in "ethnic cleansing" campaigns by Serbian troops.

"We don't want any more territory," the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs said. "We have enough already."

Mr. Karadzic, a 48-year-old psychiatrist from Sarajevo, who serves as president of the autonomous republic Serbs have declared on Bosnian territory, spoke at his office in this mountain town that serves as the Serbs' military headquarters. His remarks were a shift in tone for the Serbian nationalists -- away from enmity against Muslims toward a policy that emphasized a need for Serbs and Muslims to rebuild at least something of the common life they shared before the war.

Last month, after Serbian leaders accepted an international peace plan that would partition Bosnia into separate ethnic republics for Serbs, Muslims and Croats, Mr. Karadzic and other leading Serbian officials in Bosnia said the Serbs would wage a "war to the finish" against Muslims if the Bosnian government rejected the settlement.

The Bosnian Parliament rejected the plan anyway, saying that it legitimized "ethnic cleansing" and gave Muslims too little territory -- 30 percent of Bosnia -- compared with the 44 percent of the population that Muslims represented in Bosnia before the war started.

But Mr. Karadzic repudiated the earlier statements by the Serbs, including threats by Serbian commanders to renew artillery bombardments to flatten Sarajevo, the capital.

"No, no, we will never do that," he said. "We don't intend to resume the war. We don't intend to punish the Muslims because they didn't sign. We don't intend to take territory we consider Muslim. Serbs are not fighting now. For us, the war is finished."

In remarks that seemed aimed at encouraging reservations in Washington about the part of a peace plan that would involve sending a 50,000-man NATO force here to put the accord into effect, including 25,000 U.S. troops, Mr. Karadzic said the Serbian leadership saw no need for a big peace force, only for a small deployment of international military observers.

"If we agree on the borders," he said, referring to the boundaries between the three ethnically based republics proposed in the peace plan, "what need would we have for foreign troops?"

He said the ethnic "hatred" that had driven the war had eased.

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