Bosnian Serb Leader Defies Summons To Saravejo

The head of Bosnia-Herzegovina's autonomous Bosnian Serb entity has rejected a summons by state prosecutors, saying he would not travel to Sarajevo for questioning after he defied a high-court ruling by holding a controversial referendum.

Republika Srpska's nationalist President Milorad Dodik was summoned after Bosnian Serbs on September 25 voted overwhelmingly to maintain a "statehood day" holiday on January 9.

Dodik told a news conference on September 27 that he would not travel to Sarajevo because he feared for his security.

"I will not go to the prosecutor's office in Sarajevo but I am ready to give a statement in any other judiciary office in [Republika Srpska]," he said.

He labelled the Sarajevo-based State Court and Prosecution Office a "farce."

His refusal to comply with the summons could force state prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant, which could be difficult to enforce in the autonomous region, where the influence of Sarajevo is limited.

"If Dodik fails to comply with a summons, and fails to justify it, the prosecution will then issue an arrest warrant," said Bosnia's Security Minister Dragan Mektic.

Bosnia's Constitutional Court had cancelled the referendum, ruling that the holiday is illegal because it discriminates against non-Serbs, but Dodik held the referendum despite that ruling as well as considerable pressure from the United States and the European Union.

A violation of Constitutional Court decisions is punishable with prison sentences ranging from six months to five years.

Western powers fear the vote could bring about instability in Bosnia, which only last week made its first major step towards joining the European Union.

The Bosnian conflict was ignited by Serbs' declaration on January 9, 1992, of an independent "Serb Republic" in the north and east of Bosnia. The territory became the autonomous region of the same name, Republika Srpska, under the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the war.

The referendum has led to the most heated debate between Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Serb officials since that pact was signed in 1995.

Most Bosniaks and Croats opposed the referendum out of fear that Republika Srpska could be preparing to secede, destroying the delicate federal structure put in place after the war.

With reporting by Reuters and AP