SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Bosnian Serbs have signaled a readiness to call off the referendum threatening further turmoil in the country, Bosnia's international administrator said Thursday.
Valentin Inzko gave Bosnian Serbs until the end of the week to cancel the vote planned for mid-June or he will do it himself.
He told The Associated Press in an interview that the signals the Bosnian Serbs are sending range from calling it off to postponing it, "so we will wait a few more days, but of course, it is clear that only to postpone the referendum is not enough."
The referendum would call into question the future of Bosnia's federal court, which also deals with war crimes; the Bosnian Serbs say the court is biased against them. And it would also directly challenge Inzko's authority as the ultimate arbitrator in the country. Inzko can annul or impose laws or even fire local politicians, including presidents.
The international community has said the planned referendum would have been in violation of Bosnia's postwar peace treaty.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik wants to hold the referendum to reflect what he says is a widespread rejection of Bosnia's federal institutions, especially the war crimes court.
Bosnia is divided into two ethnic mini-states — one for Serbs, the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats.
Inzko said none of the regions can question the powers of any federal institutions or his own powers, and therefore the referendum as such was not only illegal, but jeopardizes the peace agreement and everything that was achieved since the 1992-95 war ended in Bosnia.
Over the past week, Inzko received support from most of the members of the U.N. Security Council and the White House to stop any further erosion of the Bosnian state.
"Support was never stronger," he said upon his return from the U.S. "Maybe this was the strongest support for the last three years since I am in this office."
Bosnian Serb leaders went from insisting there is no way for them to call off the referendum to stating they are ready to talk about it if they get guarantees that their conditions will be fulfilled.
Inzko said both the EU and the Serbs want judicial reform, but that the Serbs want to get rid of the federal court and have all cases be handled by their regional court. The EU wants stronger federal institutions, including the federal court that deals with war crimes and corruption.