Yugoslav Leader First since War to Visit Bosnia

Article excerpt

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina Yugoslavia's new president averted a diplomatic debacle yesterday by meeting Bosnia's political leaders, defusing anger over his decision to use his first trip to the country to attend a ceremony that some said had ethnic overtones.

Vojislav Kostunica's visit was the first a Yugoslav leader has paid to Bosnia, a former Yugoslav republic, since the 31/2-year war ended half a decade ago. He spent part of the day in the small southern Bosnian town of Trebinje before flying off to Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, for the meeting.

Kostunica's stop in Trebinje seemed simple enough: He was in town to attend a reburial service for a prominent Serb poet. But in Bosnia -- which fought to separate itself from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia in 1991 and was subsequently ripped apart by ethnic warfare between Serbs, Croats and Muslims -- the visit caused an uproar.

The Croat and Muslim members of Bosnia's three-person multiethnic presidency considered it an insult that the new Yugoslav leader, who is a Serb, would choose an event with nationalistic Serb overtones for his first visit. Even though Kostunica attended the reburial privately, the Bosnian government thought it signaled that he had not fully accepted the country's independence. …

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