JULY 16 2008 13:56h

Muslim Outcry Over Bosnian Serbs `State` Symbols





The new anthem, `My Republic`, calls the Serb Republic `the country of the shining sun, where honourable and good people live`.

Bosnia's Serb Republic parliament approved a new national anthem and coat of arms late on Tuesday despite objections from Bosnian Muslim MPs who said the symbols are nationalist and discriminatory.

The Dayton peace treaty that ended the 1992-95 war split formerly multi-cultural Bosnia in two autonomous entities, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation.

Each region had its own coat of arms and anthem until a 2006 constitutional court ruling asked they be changed to be equally representative of the Serb, Croat and Muslim ethnic groups.

The new anthem, "My Republic", calls the Serb Republic "the country of the shining sun, where honourable and good people live". The lyrics do not mention Bosnia.

Muslim MPs said the lyrics represented the Serb Republic as a full state and said they would file a challenge in parliament and higher courts.

They also said the traditional Serb symbol of a double-headed eagle held by a lion dominated the new coat of arms, while Muslim and Croat symbols -- a small lily pattern and a red-white chessboard design -- were imperceptible.

Bosnian Serb troops specifically targeted Muslims for killings and expulsions during the war in what later became known as 'ethnic cleansing' of Serb-held lands.

Muslims now make up about 10 percent of the population of the Serb Republic, less than a third of their number before the war in the region.

The Muslim-Croat federation has not yet adopted a new anthem or coat of arms, but uses the symbols of the central state as a provisional solution.