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Bosnian Serbs demand their own army, leader says

The Serb member of Bosnia's presidency, Milorad Dodik, has laid out plans for a Bosnian Serb army. But the Croat member of the presidency, Zeljko Komsic, has described it as a "criminal act of rebellion."

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik

"We will withdraw consent for the (joint) army" in a vote in the Republika Srpska parliament, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said

Bosnian Serbs are determined to form their own army, the Serb member of Bosnia's three-part presidency, Milorad Dodik, said on Tuesday.

In a move that could further raise tensions in the region after the boycott of the Balkan country's main political institutions by the Serbs, Dodik said: "We will withdraw consent for the (joint) army" in a vote in the Serb-run Republika Srpska parliament.

A decision could come "in the next few days" and the army of the Republika Srpska could be set up "within a few months," he told reporters.

Bosnia's joint presidency comprises three members — from Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims — and is the commander of the country's armed forces.

Since the end of the conflict in the Balkans in 1995, which claimed around 100,000 lives, Bosnia is made up of two semi-independent parts — the Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation, linked by central institutions, including a presidency and a joint army.

Croat member of the presidency hits back

The Croat member of the presidency, Zeljko Komsic, objected to Dodik's proposals.

"It is a criminal act of rebellion," Komsic said on Sarajevo radio.

Created by the international community in 2006, the Bosnian army comprises around 10,000 soldiers and civilian personnel.

The formation was seen as a vital step towards Bosnia's territorial integrity, which Dodik has frequently challenged.

Dodik has called for secession of the Republika Srpska, asserting that Bosnia was an "experiment by the international community" and an "impossible, imposed country."

1995 Srebrenica massacre

Since July, Bosnian Serbs have been boycotting the country's main political institutions as a protest over a ban on genocide denial, imposed by the then international community's top envoy to the country, Austrian Valentin Inzko.

Inzko's successor, German Christian Schmidt, has wide executive powers allowing him to impose laws and dismiss elected officials.

International courts have ascertained that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim males by Bosnian Serb forces was genocidal.

But Serb leaders usually deny that the atrocity amounted to genocide, instead calling it a "great crime."

Earlier this month, Serbia called for all ethnic Serbs in the Balkans to unite under one flag, triggering unease among its neighbors decades after similar calls led to the conflict in the 1990s.

jsi/aw (AFP, Interfax)