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UN council headed for showdown over Srebrenica

Bosnian Serb troops massacred up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys after capturing Srebrenica in 1995 -- in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II/AFP

Bosnian Serb troops massacred up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys after capturing Srebrenica in 1995 — in Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II/AFP

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7- The UN Security Council was headed for a showdown on Tuesday over a British-drafted resolution that aims to mark 20 years since the Srebrenica genocide but faces stiff opposition from Russia.

As Bosnia prepares for somber national commemorations of the 20th anniversary on Saturday, the 15 member council is to vote on a text that condemns the atrocities at Srebrenica and calls for boosting genocide prevention worldwide.

It remains unclear however whether Russia will veto the draft resolution that Moscow’s Deputy UN Ambassador Petr Iliichev has described as “divisive” and focused on just “one part of the conflict.”

The disagreement over the UN measure highlighted divisions from the Balkan wars when Russia defended ethnic Serbs and Serbia, who are fellow Slavs, while western countries supported Bosnian Muslims and Croatia.

The draft resolution has kicked up a storm in the Balkans where Bosnian Serb leaders have refused to recognize the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995 as a genocide.

The draft resolution stresses that “acceptance of the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation” and condemns genocide denial.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has called the Srebrenica genocide a “lie” and accused Britain of trying to “register at the UN, on the basis of false declarations and reports, that a genocide was committed against Muslims.”

“Genocide is a crime, and those who committed it are criminals who should be punished as such,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft wrote in a letter to Mladen Ivanic, the Serb chairman of the Bosnian presidency.

“To say so is not ‘anti Serbian’, as some have alleged.”

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In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon, Mladic had called the resolution “anti Serb because it fails to mention in any way the Serb victims of the Srebrenica region.”

– A Russian veto?-

Russian diplomats declined to comment on Monday on the vote, amid speculation that Moscow could veto or abstain from endorsing the resolution, the first adopted by the Security Council on the Srebrenica genocide.

Russia had put forward its own draft which Iliichev said was “more reconciling” but the text made no mention of the Srebrenica massacre as an act of genocide.

Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic overran the UN protected safe haven of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995 in what was to become one of the darkest chapters of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Mladic’s troops brushed aside the lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers and loaded thousands of Muslim men and boys onto trucks before executing them in a nearby forest and burying them in mass graves.

The international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice have both ruled that the massacre at Srebrenica was a genocide.

It was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

The draft resolution welcomes ongoing investigations of the crime and urges all 193 UN member-states to develop education programs that will allow future generations to draw the lessons of genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

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It calls on Ban to foster cooperation between early warning mechanisms for genocide prevention at the United Nations.

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