Defying international pressure to give up power, Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic shifted some duties to an extreme nationalist ally instead of stepping down as reportedly promised.
Verbal guarantees of Karadzic's resignation had been made Sunday to the top civilian official in Bosnia, Carl Bildt.Instead, Karadzic on Saturday handed over responsibility of dealing with the international community to Biljana Plavsic, in an effort to open communications between his hard-line leadership and Western officials implementing the Dayton peace agreement.
She denied Monday that Karadzic was planning to resign.
"Dr. Karadzic is president of the republic," Plavsic said, alluding to his title as self-proclaimed president of the Serb entity within Bosnia. "The president of the republic has the right to hand over some of his responsibilities to the vice president."
Western officials have shunned Karadzic, a war crimes suspect, viewing him as a major obstacle to implementing the accord that ended almost four years of fighting in Bosnia.
Karadzic demonstrated his formidable power by firing Bosnian Serb prime minister Rajko Kasagic last week and replacing him in a parliamentary session on Saturday.
Karadzic objects to the more moderate Kasagic's support for peace efforts and international intervention in Bosnia. Karadzic insists Serbs cannot live alongside Muslims, as the accord prescribes, and instead need their own territory.
The dispute between Karadzic and Kasagic, who has since gone into hiding, threatens to divide Serb-controlled Bosnia into an eastern region overseen by Karadzic and northwest Bosnia controlled by more moderate Serbs.
While some commentators said Plavsic is as militant as Karadzic, a source in Bildt's office said she is not as powerful. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said international officials would try to sideline her and other Bosnian Serb hard-liners one by one.