Washington: Russia vetoed a draft UN resolution Wednesday that would have recognized the Srebrenica massacre as genocide, triggering warnings the bitter diplomatic wrangling could spark renewed violence.
Britain had put forward the text to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 8,000 Muslim boys and men by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995, Europe`s worst atrocity since World War II.
Angola, China, Nigeria and Venezuela abstained from the vote at the 15-member Security Council while 10 other countries voted in favor of the text that also condemned genocide denial.
The Russian veto was welcomed by Serbia`s president, who said it was "a great day for Serbia," but the head of the Mothers of Srebrenica group accused Moscow of "supporting criminals, those who killed our children."
Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs had called on Russia to use its veto power to block the resolution, arguing that it was "anti-Serb" because it only highlighted killings in the final months of a war that left 100,000 people dead.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin slammed the draft resolution as "not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated" and argued that it unfairly singled out Bosnian Serbs for atrocities committed during the war.
"The draft that we have in front of us will not help peace in the Balkans but rather doom this region to tension," Churkin told the council meeting that began with a minute of silence to remember the victims.
British Deputy Ambassador Peter Wilson accused Russia of siding "with those who are unwilling to accept the facts today."
"Genocide occurred at Srebrenica. This is a legal fact, not a political judgment. On this there is no compromise," he said.
Britain, Russia and the United States had been locked in intense negotiations over the past 24 hours to try to avoid a veto and agree on a text.
But Moscow refused to drop its insistence that references to the Srebrenica killings as an act of genocide be scrapped, diplomats said.Serbia`s President Tomislav Nikolic proclaimed "this is a great day for Serbia" after the Russian veto, which he said prevented the "stigmatization of the entire Serbian people."
In Sarajevo, Munira Subasic, the head of the Mothers of Srebrenica, told AFP that Russia`s veto "has left the door open for a new war."
"We are not surprised by such a decision... Russia is actually supporting criminals, those who killed our children," Subasic said.
In his statement to the council, Churkin argued that "hundreds of thousands of Serbs" lost their homes in the war and had "suffered as much as the others, if not more."
US Ambassador Samantha Power, who worked as a journalist during the Bosnian war, took aim at Russia and the four countries that abstained from the vote.
"If the mothers of the boys executed in Srebrenica -- executed just because they were Bosnian Muslims -- were here today, they would ask how anybody would abstain on their reality," she told the council.
Russia`s veto is "heartbreaking" to the victims` families and "a further stain on this council`s record," said Power.
The international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice have both ruled that the massacre at Srebrenica was a genocide.
Bosnian Serb forces led by 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 UN peacekeepers and loaded thousands of Muslim men and boys onto trucks before executing them in a nearby forest and burying them in mass graves.
Separately, the White House said that former president Bill Clinton will lead a US delegation at Srebrenica commemorations on Saturday.