BANJA LUKA, Bosnia Bosnian Serbs threatened on Tuesday to block their country's already slow progress towards European Union membership unless the foreign minister resigns in a dispute over constitutional procedures.
The Bosnian Serbs claim that Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija instructed Bosnia's representatives at the United Nations to support a resolution on Syria without first obtaining prior consent of Bosnia's tripartite presidency.
"Unless he tenders his resignation himself, we shall start a procedure to fire him," Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic, told a news conference.
He said Lagumdzija has abused his position and authority by acting alone without instruction from the presidency.
Dodik said that unless the procedure to sack Lagumdzija was approved by the central government, the Serb officials would block the government's work regardless of an EU "Road Map" which details further steps Bosnian needs to take to join the bloc.
Bosnia's tripartite presidency is in charge of foreign policy and its Serb, Croat and Muslim members must agree about major decisions. Without consensus, the country is obliged to abstain from voting in international bodies.
The presidency had taken no position about how Bosnia should vote on Syria last Friday because two of the three members were absent, the current chairman, Bakir Izetbegovic, said at the weekend.
Izetbegovic, a Muslim, said he had advised Lagumdzija to take his cue from the presidency's earlier decisions that were in favor of previous U.N. resolutions on Syria.
Bosnia, divided after the 1992-95 war into the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation, has been locked for years in political crises that have virtually halted reforms and progress towards mainstream Europe.
Due to its complex structure, ethnic quarrels and lack of reform progress, the country is lagging behind its Balkan neighbors that all aspire to join the EU.
Bosnian Serbs often have obstructed reforms, fearing that they may cause the region to lose its high degree of autonomy.
Dodik, known for his secessionist and nationalist rhetoric, said last week that Bosnia was an "inviable state" whose disintegration was just a matter of time.
(Writing By Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Michael Roddy)