Bosnian Serb nationalist leader rejects US sanctions on him

AP News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2017 9:04 AM
Bosnian Serb nationalist leader rejects US sanctions on him

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik has dismissed U.S. sanctions imposed on him for obstructing the peace accords that ended Bosnia's war two decades ago, calling it a reversible act of revenge by the departing Obama administration.

Dodik, who is the president of Republika Srpska, the Serb-run part of Bosnia, said Wednesday he was confident that his relationship with the U.S. will improve after President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Friday.

Dodik claimed the sanctions were masterminded by the departing U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia, Maureen Cormack, adding she was "a proven enemy of Serbs" and should be declared persona non grata in Bosnia.

"We expect from the incoming U.S. administration to remove her and initiate criminal proceedings against her . for interfering in internal affairs of other countries," Dodik told reporters.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced the sanctions Tuesday against Dodik for threatening national sovereignty by defying a ruling of Bosnia's constitutional court. The sanctions freeze any assets Dodik has in the U.S. and ban Americans from doing business with him.

Over the past decade, Dodik has repeatedly criticized different U.S. ambassadors to Bosnia, who accused him of obstructing the reforms the Balkan country must make to join the European Union and NATO. He has not met with a U.S. ambassador in more than three years.

However, he insisted Wednesday he was targeted by sanctions because he had been invited "by friends from the incoming U.S. administration" to a private ball in Washington sponsored by religious and conservative groups. Dodik had wanted to attend, but was prevented when his U.S. visa request was denied.

Sanctions were slapped on Dodik for his refusal to stop celebrating a controversial holiday than was banned by Bosnia's top court for discriminating against Croats and Muslims, the country's other ethnic groups.

The Jan 9. holiday commemorates the date in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state in Bosnia, igniting the country's devastating four-year war. The war killed 100,000 people and turned half of the country's population into refugees.

Dodik celebrated the holiday last week with a parade of armed police forces through the northern city of Banja Luka. He used the occasion to say Bosnian Serbs were still "dreaming of becoming one with our motherland, Serbia."

The celebration was condemned by the European Union and the U.S., but Russia insisted its Orthodox Christian brethren in Bosnia have the right to celebrate any holiday they want.

Under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, Republika Srpska became a semi-autonomous region which along with a Bosniak-Croat federation makes up post-war Bosnia. Each part has its own president, parliament and police, but the two are linked by weak state-level institutions.