Bosnian Serb Leader Defies West, Holds Power

A glossy, black armored Mercedes-Benz with the license plate P100-100 sits parked in the shade outside the Famos car-parts factory in Pale, Bosnia. The car belongs to Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader indicted for war crimes who this week emerged victorious from the strongest attempts yet by the international community to unseat him as the leader of the Bosnian Serbs.

NATO jeeps regularly cruise past the factory, which serves as the headquarters of the breakaway Bosnian Serb government. They don't stop - a fact that symbolizes the international community's strategy toward Mr. Karadzic: Use diplomacy, not force, to remove him.

"We've said all along that it has never been our mission to go out and hunt war criminals. We'd have to mount a military operation, and we're not in that business," says spokesman Lt. Col. Max Marriner of IFOR, the NATO-led force here.

But pressure from many quarters continues to build for the United States and its allies to secure Karadzic's arrest. On Tuesday, Richard Goldstone, chief prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, broke a months-long silence on the issue to urge US officials to act on the issue. And the Bosnian government has threatened to pull out of planned Sept. 14 elections - which aim to bring stability to the region - unless Karadzic is removed from power, and some rule changes are made.

But by all indications, the former psychiatrist who led Bosnian Serbs into a 4-1/2 year war in the name of a greater Serbia, is still in full control.

Throughout this green-cliffed ski town, Karadzic is genuinely popular. The town's prewar population of 5,000 quintupled during the war, as Bosnian Serb refugees fled parts of Bosnia now under Muslim-Croat control.

IN a Pale schoolyard, two primary school students, Alexander and Dane, say they think Karadzic is wonderful. Another says the peace brought about by the Dayton accord last fall is just "half time" and that war will resume. Bosnian Serbs in Pale tend to think that the world is against them. And their support for Karadzic only increased after the recent maneuverings of Carl Bildt, the Swedish diplomat charged with implementing the political mandate of the accord hammered out in Dayton, Ohio, last year. Despite Bildt's week-long diplomatic blitz, Karadzic now seems to have emerged stronger than ever.

Last week Karadzic fired Rajko Kasagic, his prime minister who had shown a willingness to cooperate with the international community in implementing the Dayton accord.

The international community threw its full support behind Mr. Kasagic and managed for a time to sway key Serb leaders to back the moderate prime minister. Bildt's strategy seemed to be working, as crucial Karadzic allies abandoned him. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic issued a statement Thursday saying he did not support Karadzic's dismissal of Kasagic. Even Karadzic's fellow war-crimes suspect, Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, was reported to be siding with Milosevic.

But Karadzic - a chess enthusiast - apparently has outmaneuvered Bildt by getting the Bosnian Serb parliament to approve his firing of Kasagic. Karadzic then appointed his hard-line deputy, Biljana Plavsic, to replace Kasagic. Ms. Plavsic will also act as a liaison with the international community, which does not want to deal directly with Karadzic.

Since the tussle, a fresh picture of Karadzic has gone up in the International Press Center in Pale, but Western diplomatic efforts continue.

On Tuesday the US dispatched John Kornblum, the chief American diplomat for Bosnia, for a new round of talks in the region. Among those he'll visit is Serb President Milosevic, whose support is seen as key to any move to arrest Karadzic.

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