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Bosnia Serbs Reject Rulings

In a protest at two international rulings, Serbs will no longer work with the multiethnic government that has been at the core of Bosnia's fragile peace.

Bosnian Serb lawmakers decided Sunday in an emergency session to suspend cooperation with Bosnia's Muslims and Croats after the international rulings, which have sparked violent protests since Friday.

The two decisions dismissed the Bosnian-Serb president, Nikola Poplasen, and transferred a strategic town, Brcko, from control by Bosnian Serbs to control by all three Bosnian ethnicities.

Poplasen said the decision on Brcko "annuls" the 1995 Dayton agreement, which ended the 3 1/2-year Bosnian war.

Dayton divided Bosnia into Serb and Muslim-Croat republics, but its cornerstone was the concept of a multiethnic state. Towards that end, it created some joint institutions, such as a collective presidency and national parliament.

The Bosnian Serb decision in effect reopens the ethnic divisions which Dayton and years of international supervision were supposed to overcome.

The Bosnian-Serb lawmakers, in a 62-16 vote, instructed Serb officials to "cease their work" with the Muslim-Croat republic until the international decisions are reversed.

In separate votes, the lawmakers declared Poplasen's dismissal unconstitutional and "therefore not accepted." They also rejected the decision on Brcko, calling it "unjust and completely against the Dayton peace agreement."

Parliament also called for an urgent meeting of the Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia (the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy) to bring the decision on Brcko "in accord with the Dayton agreement."

In the northern town of Doboj, several thousand Serbs rallied Sunday to protest both the loss of Brcko and the decision to dismiss Poplasen.

Speaking at the rally, Slobodan Cvijic, adviser to Poplasen, demanded that NATO peacekeepers and U.N. civilian police leave Doboj by midnight or Serb authorities could not guarantee their safety.

Carlos Westendorp, the chief international official in Bosnia who oversees the Dayton accord, fired Poplasen for refusing to officially name moderate Milorad Dodik as prime minister in the Bosnian-Serb republic. Dodik has served as caretaker premier since Poplasen defeated a pro-western candidate in September elections.

But the Brcko issue has aroused such passion among Bosnian Serbs that Dodik has announced his own resignation from the caretaker post to protest the decision.

Control of Brcko was left unresolved in the Dayton agreement because of the strong claims by each of Bosnia's three communities: Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Bosnian Serbs overran the city in 1992.

NATO troops remained on alert Sunday and the U.S. Embassy urged Americans in Bosnian Serb territory to consider leaving. On Saturday night, protesters smashed and burned cars belonging to internationa organizations.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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