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Monday October 23, 2000

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Yugoslav leader to visit Bosnia

By The Associated Press

TREBINJE, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is making a trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina - the first visit there by a Yugoslav head of state since the outbreak of war eight years ago, and one that has already strained ethnic sensitivities.

Kostunica, who succeeded Slobodan Milosevic as president on Oct. 7, was scheduled to arrive in Bosnia-Herzegovina yesterday. He accepted an invitation from Bosnian Serb Deputy President Mirko Sarovic to attend the reburial of Serb poet Jovan Ducic, who died in 1943 in the United States.

In Sarajevo, the Bosnian Foreign Ministry expressed outrage that Kostunica's first visit to the country would be to the Serb-ruled part of Bosnia rather than to the capital of the divided country. Even though Kostunica is attending the reburial privately, the Bosnian government believed it signaled that Kostunica had not fully accepted Bosnia-Herzegovina's independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.

The international authorities who administer Bosnia under the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement also appeared concerned.

The chief administrator, Wolfgang Petritsch, visited Kostunica in Belgrade on Friday and urged him to improve relations with Bosnia and other countries that seceded from Yugoslavia in the last decade, triggering years of ethnic warfare.

On Saturday, Petritsch's office announced that following the reburial, Kostunica would fly aboard a U.N. helicopter for an "official visit" to Sarajevo. The schedule calls for him to spend less than an hour in the Bosnian capital and meet the country's three-member collective presidency at the airport.

Kostunica's token appearance in a city that Bosnian Serb forces shelled for years is unlikely to assuage concerns of the Bosnian and international authorities. They have accused the Bosnian Serbs of not living up to the goals of Dayton for a multiethnic, unified state.

The ceremony takes place three weeks before national elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and extremist Bosnian Serb political parties appear to be using the reburial to heighten Serb nationalism: All key members of the Bosnian Serb government and political parties are expected to attend the services, including some who have never abandoned the goal of full Bosnian Serb independence.

Ducic is to be interred at a church in Trebinje, his hometown.

The Bosnia-born Ducic earned fame as a successful diplomat and renowned poet of the first half of the 20th century.

He moved to the United States when World War II broke out, intensely lobbying against Communist guerrillas who were gaining the upper hand in his homeland. He died in 1943, and his works were under virtual ban for years in postwar Yugoslavia.