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Montenegro vote spurs Bosnia Serb referendum calls

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Long-time calls by Serb nationalists for
secession of the Serb Republic from Bosnia have grown louder since
Montenegro voted to split away from Serbia in a referendum earlier this
month.

The Serb National Movement, gathering mostly Serbs who were forced out of
Croatia in 1995, said on Monday it had collected nearly 50,000 signatures of
Serbs across the country for holding an independence referendum.

"The will of citizens cannot be ignored. The Serb people do not want to live
in a Bosnia imposed on them. The Serb people want a free Republika Srpska,
separated from an imposed Bosnia and Herzegovina," said movement president
Dane Cankovic.

Even though its 18-month-long initiative for the Serb Republic's secession
from Bosnia had been ignored by official politics, it gained popularity
after Montenegro voted for independence from Serbia last week.

Serb Republic Prime Minister Milorad Dodik poured oil on fire saying that a
referendum should be the basis for determination of the final status of

Kosovo and that all peoples in the region should be allowed to decide on
their fate in the same way.

Dodik also proposed that Bosnia should be organized as a federal unit giving
each population the right to self-determination through referendum.

His remarks have been strongly criticized by international envoys, who
reminded Dodik that the autonomous Serb Republic was only created after
Bosnia's 1992-95 war, had no jurisdiction to call a referendum and could not
be compared to Montenegro.

"The international community will not allow the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be endangered," the office of top
peace envoy Christian Schwarz-Schilling said in a statement on Monday.
"Bosnia and Herzegovina is not in question now or in the future."

"For me, those are completely separate events. The Republika Srpska is bound
by the Dayton peace agreement, an internationally binding treaty which
recognizes Bosnia...as a sovereign independent state," he said.

Schwarz-Schilling was referring to the U.S.-sponsored peace accords that
ended the war dividing Bosnia into the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat
federation.

In an open letter to media at the weekend, Dodik said he was only
speculating on possible scenarios in the future and that he was open to talk
to everyone in Bosnia who accepted the Serb Republic as an equal partner.

"I am always ready to talk on how to make Bosnia a better place for all.
When we succeed in this, it will be needless to discuss a referendum issue
because all citizens will say: This is the Bosnia I want," Dodik said.

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