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Some hard-liners boycott as Bosnia gets new leaders

A new, moderate Bosnian Serb prime minister and Cabinet took office Saturday in a ceremony boycotted by some hard-liners loyal to indicted wartime leader Radovan Karadzic.

At a parliamentary session that could mark a turning point in fulfilling the Dayton peace agreement and the overall reconstruction of Bosnia, Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said he expected solid results from his government within two months.In the Cabinet's first major decision, it chose Banja Luka as the new seat of government - effectively the capital - of the Bosnian Serb republic.

Addressing parliament, Dodik expressed his support for Dayton and said, "This government has the strength, the authority of experts and we know the best way to ensure . . . peace in this area."

The international community has welcomed Dodik, who replaced supporters of Karadzic, the former Bosnian leader indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

Last week Carlos Westendorp, the top international envoy for Bosnia, appealed for more aid for Dodik's government. Washington responded by saying up to $5 million in U.S. aid might be provided each month.

"We are at a very important crossroads," Hanns Schumacher, a deputy to Westendorp, told The Associated Press on Saturday. "We have a government which is democratically elected by a majority of deputies in the parliament" and includes members of all constituencies in the territory, he said.

Two hard-line parties control 39 of the 83 seats in parliament. The remaining seats are held by the party of Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, several smaller Serb parties, and Croat and Muslim deputies who represent non-Serbs.

Dodik was elected by a slim parliamentary majority earlier this month, after hard-liners quit the session in protest.

On Saturday, some of them left again when Dodik and the Cabinet took their oath by swearing on the Bible. The deputies said they were "disgusted" that Dodik, a reported atheist, was swearing to God.

Still, Aleksa Buha, a top official of the party supporting Karadzic, said Saturday, "We shall continue to challenge legitimacy of this government."