CNN, April 08, 2001
Bosnian Croat leaders accused
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The U.S. ambassador in Bosnia has accused Croat separatist leaders of "extensive" criminal activity.
Thomas Miller claims that hard-liners want to withdraw from the Muslim-Croat federation, and set up their own mini-state, so they can continue their illegal dealings.
The statement came after Bosnian Croat separatists attacked NATO-led peacekeepers in Mostar and other south-western Bosnian towns on Friday, injuring 21.
The riots prompted a warning from Bosnia's international administrator that he will refuse to negotiate with those who adopt "mob rule" tactics in the ethnically divided country.
The 1995 Dayton agreement that ended Bosnia's war divided the country into a Serb-run mini-state and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
The Croats are the smallest of the three ethnic groups and some feel they are under-represented in the division of power.
Last month the Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ, threatened to withdraw from its alliance with the Muslims and set up a separate Croat Government in Croat-dominated parts of the country.
In an interview with Bosnia's Open Broadcast Network, Ambassador Miller said the HDZ was "a party that uses political power to cover its criminal activities, which are extensive."
He said of the Croat threat: "It's all about money... All you have to do is drive around Herzegovina, see the companies that these people own, the houses they live in, the cars they are driving, and ask yourself a simple question: where did it all come from? That's what it's about."
The Croat party made no comment. Earlier it released a statement claiming Miller "sees the Croats as his biggest enemies" and accusing the American envoy of insisting "on the use of repression toward the Croat people in Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Friday's riots were sparked when NATO troops and U.N. police seized a bank -- the Hercegovacka Banka -- which is allegedly used by the HDZ to promote their campaign for their own state.
Several workers of international organisations were beaten and vehicles set ablaze. Some international officials were held hostage for several hours and an American auditor had a pistol held to his head.
Bosnia's chief international administrator, Austrian Wolfgang Petritsch, defended his decision to take over the bank and said the newly-appointed manager, Tobi Robinson, would not back down in the face of threats.
He said investigators were identifying ringleaders of the violence and promised they will be prosecuted.
"I will not hold any dialogue with extremists who use violence," Petritsch said.
"Neither I nor (NATO) will tolerate mob rule."
Hard-liners ignored Petritsch's comments, and hundreds of people attended celebrations in Mostar on Saturday which marked the ninth anniversary of the founding of wartime Croat militia.
They said it was time for NATO administrators to leave the country.
Zlatan Mijo Jelic, a former general, said: "International strongmen suspended the freedom of the Croat people, but the Croat people will soon achieve their freedom. They cannot arrest our ideas. Nor can they arrest the entire Croat people."
He urged Croats remaining in government jobs to resign and join the hard-liners.