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Bosnian President Says Serbia's Extradition Request Damaging Relationship


Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic, speaking in London, says Serbia's controversial effort to extradite one of his predecessors for alleged war crimes is damaging the relationship between the two countries. Former Bosnian President Ejup Ganic was jailed on a Serbian extradition request last week and released on bail Thursday.

"We've been trying lately to improve our relations, Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia, but this is a setback and all the gains in improving those relations is practically reversed," President Silajdzic said. "We shall need now more time to make these relations normal."

Bosnia and Serbia fought a bloody war in the early 1990s during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Serbian authorities have accused former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic of war crimes in 1992 at the start of the war. Mr. Ganic, who was arrested last week in London, has denied the Serbian charges, which were previously rejected by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. Thursday, a British court ordered Mr. Ganic released on bail.

Mr. Silajdzic says the Serbs are trying to change perceptions about what happened during the Bosnian war, which cost the lives of an estimated 100,000 people, most of them Bosnian civilians.

"We would like to have normal, neighborly relations with Serbia, but they continue to provoke Bosnia Herzegovina, minimize their role, rehabilitate the perpetrators and demonize the victims, rewrite history, revise recent history," he said.

Mr. Silajdzic says he does not know whether all of the Serbian government supports the plan to request Ganic's extradition, but he says some in Serbia still adhere to the vision former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic had for a greater Serbia, that included part of what is now Bosnia Herzegovina.

"The problem is the hardliners, or those who still believe in an ideology and still believe in Milosevic's project despite the fact that that project was defeated not only politically and militarily but also morally," he said.

Mr. Silajdzic also met with Britain's foreign Secretary David Miliband to discuss complaints about Mr. Ganic's treatment in Britain.

"Mr. Ganic - was the least to say - mistreated after the arrest," Mr. Silajdzic said.

Bosnian officials say Mr. Ganic, who is now an academic, was not granted consular access for three days and President Silajdzic says there were other concerns.

"He did not have for three or four day access to telephone, and he had problems even with his medicine at treating the high blood pressure," he said. "That is a contravention, clear contravention of the European convention. And, I said that I believe that an apology is in order so that the citizens of Bosnia Herzegovina will know that our relations are normal, that this was an aberration in otherwise good and friendly relation that we have with this country."

Miliband said he would investigate the complaints. On March 25, Mr. Ganic's lawyers are expected to try to have the case thrown out for lack of evidence. If that fails, Mr. Ganic is scheduled to appear in court April 13 when Serbia will lay out its case for extradition.

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