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Press Review: Bosnian Serb Karadzic Stymies Western Opposition

  • Don Hill

Prague, May 20 (RFE/RL) -- Events in Bosnia over the weekend captured Western press attention. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic seemed to promise to resign as self-syled president, but then named hardline associates to surrogate positions of power.

In The London Times today, Stacy Sullivan in Banja Luka and diplomatic correspondent Eve-Ann Prentice write: "Karadzic appeared to have consolidated his hold on power over the Bosnian Serbs yesterday, despite moving into the shadows and slipping further from the grasp of those who want him tried as a war criminal. Biljana Plavsic, a hardliner, has taken over negotiations with the international community, and Gojko Klickovic, another extreme nationalist, was named as prime minister in place of a moderate favored by the West. Dr. Plavsic is expected to continue Dr. Karadzic's nationalist policies."

The Frankfurter Rundshau says today in an editorial "The resignation of the prince of Pale could be a further variant of the old deceptive double game." The German newspaper said: "Karadzic can with his provocative escapades fool the cowardly West and pull his head again out of the noose." Of Bosnian Serb Vice President Plavsic,the editorial says she has in the past shown little tendency toward reconciliation and will lead toward the further isolation of the Bosnian Serbs. "Plavsic is not a fit partner for peace negotiations -- like her former boss (Karadzic)."

Tracy Wilkinson writes today in an analysis in the Los Angeles Times "The senior mediator in charge of implementing the Bosnian peace accord intensified his pressure yesterday on Radovan Karadzic, claiming that the Bosnian Serb leader has agreed to step down. High Representative Carl Bildt was echoed by state-run television in Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital. But the hard-liners who surround Karadzic at Bosnian Serb headquarters here insisted that their self-declared president is only relinquishing some of his duties. The murky political scene emerging late yesterday showed both the increasing desperation of Western officials seeking to be rid of Karadzic, who has been indicted on war crimes charges, and the increasing determination of Bosnian Serb hard-liners to close ranks."

The British newspaper The Daily Telegraph editorializes today "The jubilation with which diplomats are said to have greeted Radovan Karadzic's decline springs largely from wishful thinking."

And Mark M. Nelson writes in today's Wall Street Journal Europe: "Officials at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization... predicted that (Karadzic) would continue to exercise influence from behind the scenes as he has done since the signing... of the Dayton peace accords, in which indicted war criminials are forbidden from holding office."

Tony Barber writes today in the British newspaper The Independent: "Despite (the fact that Karadzic), psychiatrist, fiddler, extreme nationalist and indicted war criminal, (is) one of the world's most wanted men, and despite the presence of 80,000 NATO troops in Bosnia, it seems nobody wants to clap a hand on the Karadzic shoulder and say, 'You're nicked.'"

Britain's The Guardian asks today in an editorial: "Is Radovan Karadzic really on the way out?" The Guardian goes on: "That would be a remarkable outcome from a weekend of Bosnian confusion and intrigue. Unfortunately the optimism of the mediator Carl Bildt is unlikely to be justified without a great deal more effort from the international community which he represents.... If cracks in the Bosnian Serb regime really are beginning to appear, then it is all the more important for the member states behind IFOR to speed up the process by adopting a tougher stand."

"Karadzic 'losing grip' on power in Bosnia," Britain's Financial Times headlines today, enclosing the words "losing grip" in skeptical quotation marks. Laura Silber writes in the Times' news analysis: "the results of a late-night session of the Bosnian Serb assembly on Saturday suggest that Mr. Karadzic may still retain a grip on power as deputies unanimously confirmed the replacement of his rival, Mr. Rajko Kasagic, as Bosnian Serb prime minister, by Mr. Gojko Klickovic, who is a close ally."

In a second news analysis in today's The Independent, Europe editor Tony Barber writes: "Karadzic... defied Western governments this weekend by restructuring his government in a manner intended to reaffirm Bosnian Serb opposition to the Dayton peace agreement.... Failure to secure the removal from power of Mr. Karadzic would gravely damage Mr. Bildt's authority and undermine the Dayton agreement."

Tim Butcher writes in Britain's The Daily Telegraph today "Karadzic... remained at large in Bosnian Serb territory and was as far away as ever from being forced to answer charges that he committed crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war. Proof of Dr. Karadzic's authority came from a hastily arranged meeting of the Bosnian Serb parliament, which appointed a new hardline prime minister to replace a more moderate premier dismissed last week."

In an article labeled analysis by Britain's The Daily Telegraph today, Robert Fox writes: "With all the skill of the habitual gambler, Dr. Radovan Karadzic was deliberately vague in his weekend declaration that he was handing over many of his powers as president of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska."

And Julian Berger writes today from Zagreb in the British newspaper The Guardian: "International mediators in Bosnia claimed yesterday to have won a promise from Serb separatists that Radovan Karadzic... would step down from power. But the Serbs almost immediately denied making a deal, saying only that their leader had delegated some duties as self-styed president to his deputy. The denial from the Serb stronghold in Pale was a blow for the international community's high representative to Bosnia, Carl Bildt. He believed that he had maneuvered the Serb leader into a corner, but may have been outwitted himself by hardline separatists, who appear to have strengthened their hand after the weekend talks.... Mr. Bildt has clearly put the Serb leader on the defensive, but his critics argue he is concentrating excessively on Mr. Karadzic, and has failed to take into account the deep roots of the (nationalists') machine."