Outspoken Bosnian Serb president takes office

08:15, November 16, 2010      

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Milorad Dodik kisses the national flag during his inauguration ceremony as the newly-eleceted President of Republika Srpska in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Nov. 15, 2010. (Xinhua/Borislav Zdrinja)

Milorad Dodik was sworn in as the new president of Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), on Monday at a session of the National Assembly in Banja Luka, reported Radio Sarajevo.

The outspoken Dodik was elected to the largely ceremonial position during the Oct. 3, 2010 general elections. The former prime minister of the Serb entity and president of the largest Bosnian Serb political party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Dodik used the opportunity of his inauguration to mend fences with domestic citizens, while underscoring his uncompromising approach with respect to the status of the Serb entity and the role of the international community in the war-torn former Yugoslav republic.

Dodik said Republika Srpska belonged to all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. He also apologized for any crimes committed by Serbs on the non-Serb population, saying that the perpetrators "cannot, must not and will not enjoy our protection, but should face the crimes they committed."

"The path of reconciliation begins with an understanding of the pain and suffering of others. Republika Srpska had previously apologized for innocent victims. I, once again, express sincere regret for each innocent victim, especially those victims who have suffered at the hands of individuals from the nation to whom I belong. Every victim deserves respect. And every crime a conviction," stated Dodik.

The new president added, however, that he would use his office to seek prosecution of those who had committed crimes against Serbs during the civil war of the 1990s. Dodik said he would not remain silent before the "selective justice" of judicial authorities both in BiH and abroad, which he said "has not convinced me that there is good will on all sides that there should be justice for all."

Dodik said an "impartial and professional" truth about the civil war in BiH would be one of his most important tasks as president.

Often described as a hard-line nationalist politician by the West for resisting attempts to build stronger state institutions at the expense of the autonomy of Republika Srpska, Dodik indicated that his vision of BiH had not changed.

"Those who dream of a unitary Bosnia, or who hope to -- under the mantle of European integration -- dispossess RS, you should know that we never, under any circumstances, we will not give up its autonomy, even at the cost of not joining the European Union," stated Dodik.

"Our commitment to the European path means we are prepared to enter the EU as partners with our identity and integrity," the new president said.

While expressing gratitude for the peacekeeping contribution of the international community, Dodik nonetheless singled out the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the UN's special envoy in BiH, as an arbitrary and obstructionist force in the country.

"Our disobedience to the illegal activity of the high representatives of OHR was aimed at the protection of legitimate interests, and the exercise of the constitutional position of the Republika Srpska, as the subject of an international agreement known as the Dayton Agreement," Dodik said.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH, also known as the Dayton Agreement, was the peace treaty which ended the civil war in 1995 and provided the constitutional framework of the current state of BiH, with its two entities and three constituent nations -- Bosnian Muslim, Serbs and Croats.

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