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New U.S. Bosnia Team Takes The Helm

  • Sonia Winter

Washington, Feb. 22 (RFE/RL) - A new chapter begins today in the history of U.S. diplomacy on Bosnia. But it's not as new as it seems.

True, the man most credited with bringing peace to Bosnia and recognized as the driving force behind the Dayton peace accords -- Richard Holbrooke -- has retired from government service.

However, he will be replaced by a man of comparable experience and knowledge and the new negotiating team includes a number of people who have long worked on Bosnia problems out of the public eye.

Yesterday, Holbrooke was America's chief negotiator on Bosnia and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, one of the most important positions in the U.S. State Department. Today, he is an investment banker in private life living in New York.

Holbrooke's departure was not sudden. He has been telling people for months that he will be retiring for personal reasons because he wants to be with his family in New York.

On his last day in office Wednesday, Holbrooke was thanked by the White House and showered with praise by Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Defense Secretary William Perry at a send-off ceremony in the State Department.

He received the highest award the State Department can offer for public services rendered, and members of his negotiating team were similarly honored.

At a press conference earlier, Holbrooke strongly emphasized that, in his words "what was done in the last six months was a team effort, a very strong team effort...backed by senior officials."

He said Christopher has been "intimately engaged" in Bosnia matters since the December meeting in Dayton and "will continue to be actively and personally involved."

Holbrooke says it was Christopher's idea to call last weekend's conference in Rome and State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns has said Christopher plans to hold more meetings with the three Balkan presidents in coming months to review compliance with the Dayton accords.

But the person supervising the Bosnia negotiating team's operational activities will be John Kornblum who is being nominated to replace Holbrooke as Assistant Secretary of State.

When the U.S. Senate confirms his appointment, it will be a promotion for Kornblum who is a career diplomat and has been serving as Holbrooke's senior deputy since June 1994. As of today, he is Acting Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs.

He brings to the job more than 30 years' experience in diplomacy starting in 1964 when he joined the State Department's Foreign Service after finishing college.

Kornblum's career has been dedicated to European affairs. He was assigned several times to U.S. missions in Bonn and Berlin in positions of ascending importance. In 1987, he went to Brussels as the number two man at the U.S. NATO mission and in 1991 he became U.S. Ambassador to the then Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He was head of the U.S. delegation to the 1992 Helsinki Review Conference and later served in Vienna for two years with the U.S. delegation to the CSCE.

Kornblum is not planning to follow in Holbrooke's footsteps and spend quite as much time on Bosnia issues. A State Department spokesman told RFE/RL's correspondent that Kornblum will certainly spread his attention more evenly among the many responsibilities of the job.

Ambassador Robert Gallucci will take over most of Holbrooke's work on implementation of the Dayton accords in Bosnia. Spokesman Burns says he will be chief coordinator and the special U.S. envoy on all matters regarding the Dayton accords.

Gallucci, an articulate, mild-mannered man, has a lot of experience with seemingly impossible diplomatic missions. He has been working with Holbrooke for several months and accompanied him on a Balkan tour earlier this month. But before that he was the chief U.S. negotiator on the nuclear problem with North Korea two years ago.

Gallucci is credited with negotiating North Korea's eventual agreement to comply with nuclear non-proliferation regulations and halt efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program.

He's been called on several times to resolve a brewing military crisis or prevent a situation from becoming more serious. In 1992, he led efforts to improve nuclear safety and stop the spread of nuclear weapons and materials in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, he served on a United Nations commission overseeing the disarmament of Iraq, following the Gulf war.

Gallucci began his foreign affairs career in 1974 at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and served in a variety of policy-making positions, including assignments dealing with the Middle East and South Asia.

At the press conference yesterday, Holbrooke said he would be available to give advice on Bosnia if asked and at least one press article (in the Los Angeles Times) said he will continue to play a negotiating role in Bosnia.

But Burns says Holbrooke is unlikely to be invited in on negotiations as a consultant.

Burns says "implementing the Dayton accords in Bosnia is a business that has to be attended on a daily basis," and that "Ambassador Gallucci is one of the most effective diplomats the United States has."

Resolving compliance issues concerning human rights will continue to be the responsibility of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck. U.S. officials say his role is increasing in importance as the U.S. policy emphasis shifts from military to civilian security. Holbrooke and other U.S. officials have said the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, as well as maintaining freedom of movement and justice for all ethnic groups in Bosnia, are essential components for renewal and reconstruction in the country.