November 28, 1995
Web posted at: 6:30 p.m. EST
SACHI KOTO, anchor: Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic has been one of the most vocal critics of the Balkans peace accord. CNN's Eileen O'Connor is standing by live in Pale with an interview with the Bosnian Serb leader. Eileen.
EILEEN O'CONNOR, international correspondent: Well, Sachi, as you know, the most important reaction to President Clinton's speech will clearly be here, in Pale, where the Bosnian Serb leadership is headquartered. There have been some criticism of some of the parts of the peace agreement, particularly concerning Serb dominated sections of Sarajevo. Those people in those sections are concerned that this peace agreement cannot be implemented without some discrimination against them and with me is Dr. Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs. Dr. Karadzic, thank you for joining us. Could you tell me what do you feel about President Clinton's speech and do you think that there is a need for American troops to be here to implement the agreement?
RADOVAN KARADZIC, Bosnian Serb political leader: Well, (the) president's speech sounded to me completely unbiased and that's the main concern of ours. I completely back what President Clinton said. If we are going to implement this agreement then we should do -- also with American troops here. We Serbs are not concerned about Americans as much because we have been allies during First World War and Second World War and if American soldiers come here in a friendly manner, they will find Serbs as a friends here and there will be no casualties, there will be no incidents, even incidents. First of all, nobody of us would command any fire against foreign troops, let alone American foreign troops. But, if Serbian people are humiliated, then we may expect incidents. Otherwise, if they are not threatened or humiliated and if foreign troops behave completely impartially, then Americans will find friends here.
O'CONNOR: Did you feel, in parts of his speech he talked about that this was the cause of the right? He talked about the camps that were here. He talked about Muslim boys being shot. Didn't you think that that was perhaps directed at the Bosnian Serbs?
KARADZIC: President Clinton didn't specify Muslim boys because he perfectly knows that Serbian boys have been killed, too. He talked about everything that a civil war brings about and we agree that there have been terrible things. But, I'll tell you Serbs did less terrible things than Muslims and Croats.
O'CONNOR: Dr. Karadzic, can I also ask you, concerning the safety of U.S. troops, he was talking about a risk-free environment. Is that possible in Bosnia, risk-free?
KARADZIC: I think we may create the environment, risk-free environment for the American and foreign troops. I will remind you that out of 400 incidents against UNPROFOR soldiers, there have been only 10 percent caused by the Serbs, 90 percent by the Muslims and Croats. So, don't worry about Serbs. If Americans come here and they're friends, there will be no problem and we are fully in charge. We run our own state according to our law and constitution and we are in full control, except for some desperate elements that are going to be even during the peace. In London, you have some explosions during the peace.
O'CONNOR: Dr. Karadzic, you spoke about this weekend about resistance to the unification of Sarajevo. How would that resistance take place? I mean, why do you feel that under the current terms of the peace agreement that this is very difficult and there needs to be some further look at this?
KARADZIC: The only completely wrong point in the Dayton agreement is possible unification of the city of Sarajevo, which has been divided for three and a half years. There are 150,000 Serbs living down there in Serbian -- completely, clearly Serbian suburbs. They are terrified and I think for three or five years, Muslim soldiers or policemen should not enter Serbian suburbs. We have to find a special way of implementation for the city of Sarajevo. If we do, then we will accomplish the complete implementation within a year. If we don't, then we will have Beirut in Europe and it's going to last for years and may be even for a decade. So, let us concentrate in Sarajevo. Let us do something about that and I guarantee from the Serbian standpoint, for the Serbian side, that implementation will go smoothly.
O'CONNOR: But isn't that a de facto partitioning of Sarajevo if you're saying that Muslim and Croats cannot go in to Serb sections, that means a division?
KARADZIC: Well, let me remind you on Krajina, this [unintelligible] plan that Serbs had their own authorities over there for years and there was no incidents. I guarantee that we will resolve every single problem in Sarajevo provided we find a special status for the Serbian Sarajevo. Maybe now it is too late to renegotiate it, but if they transform Sarajevo in to two cities, then none of those two cities will be divided. If they want to unify Sarajevo, then it is factually divided city. People are scared and terrified. People don't trust each other and we would need a few years to get trust back.
O'CONNOR: When you talk about it being Beirut, are you talking about -- and a solution to this problem, are you talking about only a military solution or is there a political solution to the division?
KARADZIC: I completely back the Dayton peace agreement and I give up any idea of military solution for Sarajevo or for Bosnia at all. I have initiated the Dayton agreement. My leadership is completely unified. The army is completely under control and in accord with civilian authorities. We accept peace and we are begging the international community and particularly America to find a way to resolve the problem of the city of Sarajevo, even if we build up new city for one or two years, it would be much better than to have terrible bloodshed or long lasting conflict like Beirut.
O'CONNOR: So, there is no division between you and General Mladic or you and Mr. Milosevic?
KARADZIC: No, no, we are -- you see, we Serbs are quarreling some times. But basically, we stick to our constitution and our laws.
O'CONNOR: How will you continue with your own political mandate given the fact that as they said, you cannot, as an accused war criminal, run for political office under this agreement? How will you maintain a power base without being an elected official?
KARADZIC: Well, before the war, I was not anything as but chief of the party, but I was the most influential because we all work together, all of my colleagues that are in offices now are professionals, very happy people before the politics and before the war. So, we will find a way. There will be no problem and before the elections, it will be quite clear that I am not war criminal.
O'CONNOR: Who would you see then, as the possible leader, an elected official?
KARADZIC: It's too early to think of that. But, what I can tell is that if you give me good evidence about my crime, I would arrest myself. Nobody should do it. We will arrest any Serb that has evidence about atrocities. Nobody else should try to arrest people throughout Bosnia because in that case, there will be terrible incidents.
O'CONNOR: You talked about that this weekend and what would happen if, for instance -- and Mr. Clinton talked about the pursuit of the war crime tribunal. What would happen if NATO forces did try to arrest you and General Mladic?
KARADZIC: Well, you should know that me and General Mladic are backed by several hundred thousand soldiers and are completely backed up with our people. If you give us good evidence, we will arrest ourselves and there are many other Serbs that should not be arrested by the foreigners. We will try our own criminals if you [unintelligible] if there's good evidence.
O'CONNOR: Are you talking about perhaps giving yourself up and holding a tribunal here?
KARADZIC: Everything may happen but this is too early to talk about it. I think the whole matter about this tribunal is a matter of political pressure. This is completely unfounded. This is not [unintelligible]. This is political matter. This is discriminatory court and I think as we are approaching peace, there should be complete amnesty for usual fighting. And war criminals, we would try ourselves. You remember, Mr. Izetbegovic said that Serbs who didn't join Serbian army may stay in Sarajevo. I mean all of Serbs joined Serbian army. He is chasing Serbs, 150,000 Serbs out of Sarajevo. We have already had eight suicides after the Dayton decision that Serb Sarajevo should be handed over to the Muslims.
O'CONNOR: By Serbs --
KARADZIC: Eight Serbs, Sarajevo Serbs, committed suicide.
O'CONNOR: Dr. Karadzic, should the Serbian parliament keep meeting right now and what good would that do at the moment, given that there should be, under this new political structure?
KARADZIC: Well, finally, our assembly has to ratify Dayton and Paris treaty -- Dayton agreement and Paris treaty. I think we would fight for that, not against it and I think we will be backed by our representatives and our assembly. The main concern is the city of Sarajevo. If we find a solution, then we can guarantee ratification and implementation.
O'CONNOR: Dr. Karadzic, Mr. Clinton talked about the fact that America had in the last stages of the war, helped to bring the warring sides to the peace table. Was it NATO air strikes that brought you to the peace table or was it something else?
KARADZIC: Well, not really NATO air strikes brought us back from any talks, because that was very cruel. We had civilian casualties. Our people are, even now, very concerned about even-handedness of NATO, which has bombarded us. That was terrible mistake. What should be known is that Serbs didn't cause the war, the Serbs didn't to last the war. We have always been for the talks. But, we couldn't accept some previous solutions.
O'CONNOR: The Bosnian government says that they are the ones for unification and for a unified Bosnia. Your leadership has said that from the beginning, it was your leadership that was for unification and that never the break-up of Yugoslavia. But, still in the speech and in public opinion around the world, it has seemed that the Serbian side has gotten much of the blame. Why do you think that is?
KARADZIC: Because that was a completely staged and prepared by our enemies. We have been against the destruction of Yugoslavia, because Yugoslavia was our home. Muslims would like to have unified Bosnia because they would be majority and they would have a hegemony or a Christian majority now, Serbs and Croats. So, they don't have the right to dominate over the Serbs.
If we find a way to cooperate two entities then why they should like to rule over the Serbs.
O'CONNOR: You say that you are for investigation or any kind of trial concerning alleged atrocities. What about the unanswered questions concerning Srebrenica? Will there be conducted some kind of investigation? Would you pledge such an investigation?
KARADZIC: I have already ordered the investigation about any allegations and among them about Srebrenica. I was reported that the UNPROFOR people has monitored the whole affair. There was no killing, mass killing or any killing that Muslims have checked many more refugees in Srebrenica in order to get more help for their own army. The same happened in Zepa. They have checked 17,000. But, even your correspondent, Mr. Arnett, was there and he has seen 800-8,500 people. So, 50 percent, it has been exaggerated 100 percent.
O'CONNOR: Dr. Karadzic, finally, after the initialing of this agreement, within the agreement it was talked about trying to find and the safe return of these French pilots. It's always been said that your leadership -- that you know where they are. Where are the French pilots?
KARADZIC: No, right now we don't know where they are. Although we have ordered an investigation through -- both through the civilian secret service and the military secret service if they are alive, we will know soon about that.
O'CONNOR: Are you concerned about their safety?
KARADZIC: Yes, I am concerned about the safety because many civilians have been killed by NATO aviation and I'm concerned that something happened to them, but I have some hopes, not evidence, but hopes that they may be alive.
O'CONNOR: OK, thank you, Dr. Karadzic for joining us today. As you could see, Dr. Karadzic is guaranteeing the safety of American troops, saying they are needed here to implement the peace. I'm Eileen O'Connor reporting live from Pale.
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