I'll not sacrifice peace for Republika Srpska, Bosnian Serb leader says

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Milorad Dodik, Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, speaks during an interview in Banja Luka
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, whose secessionist ideas are widely seen as endangering a Bosnian peace deal, said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that no political goals were worth the sacrificing of peace in Bosnia.

"I am not ready to sacrifice peace for anything," said Dodik, who is the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite inter-ethnic presidency. "I am not ready to sacrifice peace for a fight for Republika Srpska."

Dodik's comments come as Bosnia experiences its gravest political crisis since the end of the war in the 1990s, reviving fears of a new conflict after Bosnian Serbs at the end of July blocked the work of the central government while Dodik announced measures aimed at unravelling key state institutions.

Under the U.S.-sponsored Dayton peace accords that ended the devastating 1992-1995 war, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions - the Serb Republic and the Federation dominated by Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, linked by a weak central government.

The country's constitution is part of the peace deal.

Dodik, a staunch supporter of Russia, reiterated that the Serb Republic would pull out of Bosnia's armed forces, top judiciary body and tax administration.

He says the three institutions - which represent key pillars of the state security, rule of law and the fiscal system - were established based on decisions by international peace envoys, are not enshrined in the constitution and have proven useless.

His team will propose these initiatives, as well as the annulment of about 140 laws imposed by peace envoys, to the region's parliament by the end of November, he said.

"We shall withdraw our agreement (on the joint army) and leave a six-month deadline for drafting accompanying legislation," he said, leaving open the possibility of discussion on changes to the force which he said was non-functional and too costly.

Bosnia's international peace envoy, Christian Schmidt, warned the U.N. Security Council in a report last week that Dodik's moves were "tantamount to secession without proclaiming it".

Schmidt told Reuters the red line for the international community would be the Serb Republic's withdrawal from the joint armed forces.

Dodik has previously said he is aiming for the Serb Republic's full autonomy within Bosnia, rather than secession, which would not affect the country's territorial integrity.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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