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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 00:52 GMT
Bosnian Croats postpone self-rule
Soldiers of the NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Bosnia
S-For is keeping a close eye on Bosnian Croat army units
By Alix Kroeger in Sarajevo

Bosnian Croat nationalists, who had threatened to proclaim self-rule for Bosnian Croat majority areas on Monday, have stepped back from the brink and postponed their decision for two months.


The new deadline means that there will be more to come - this is a crisis delayed, not yet defused

Two weeks ago, the Bosnian Croat nationalist party, the HDZ, threatened to create an autonomous Croat mini-state within Bosnia.

It has now decided to extend the time for negotiations with the international community.

Last week, the Nato-led stabilization force, S-For, warned it was keeping a particularly close eye on Bosnian Croat army units, including barracks and weapons storage sites.

Confrontation

The HDZ, which is still the largest Bosnian Croat party, is unhappy about a change in the election rules for the Muslim Croat Federation - one of the two entities which now make up Bosnia-Hercogovina.

The HDZ declared a boycott of the Federation and announced their intention to create a separatist administration.

Rally outside the convention building
Croat supporters demonstrated for the self-rule decision
Some Croat soldiers removed Federation insignia from their uniforms on the orders of the HDZ.

The scene was set for an all-out confrontation with the international community, including the stabilization force S-For.

The decision to allow two more months for negotiations may indicate a split in the party between hardliners, who see the creation of a separate entity as their goal, and moderates, who want to use the threat of self-rule to get a better deal within the Federation.

Last week, two senior HDZ officials held talks with the international community and the new deadline means that there will be more to come.

This is a crisis delayed, not yet defused.

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See also:

07 Mar 01 | Europe
Bosnian Croat president fired
22 Feb 01 | Europe
Bosnia forms new government
21 Nov 00 | Europe
Ghosts of Bosnia's war live on
21 Nov 00 | Europe
Dayton five years on
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