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Western Press Review: Bosnia's Mladic--Fired But Not Gone

  • Don Hill

Prague, 14 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary asks but doesn't answer two significant questions about Bosnia: Is Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic, ostensibly dismissed by his president, out of office? What comes after IFOR, the NATO force assigned with a December pullout deadline to enforce the Dayton peace?

WASHINGTON POST: The chaos surrounding Mladic is a symbol of bloodshed

John Pomfret writes today in an analysis: "Bosnian Serb police carrying automatic weapons took up positions on roads leading to General Ratko Mladic's headquarters (yesterday) after cutting most army communications and detaining several generals still loyal to the fired Bosnian Serb commander. The moves by Interior Ministry personnel were the most threatening so far in a campaign by Bosnian Serb political authorities to unseat Mladic, who has been indicted for war crimes but is refusing orders to step down."

Pomfret says: "The chaos surrounding the future of Mladic, a ruthless commander and a symbol of the three-and-a-half years of bloodshed in the Bosnian war, underscored the significance of efforts to unseat him."

The writer says: "Mladic's departure would mark a watershed in the history of the Bosnian conflict, though Bosnian Serb sources cautioned that it did not mean he would be extradited to the Hague tribunal (where he stands indicted as a war criminal)."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: NATO commanders admit Mladic's control of the military was an asset

In the paper today, Julius Straus writes from Bosnia in an analysis: "Bosnian Serb authorities were in disarray last night after an attempt by President Biljana Plavsic to remove the indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic from his post as army commander. Although General Mladic and dozens of his supporters were sacked last weekend, there is no sign that they are prepared to accept the decision."

Strauss says: "Although NATO commanders despise Mladic, they admit that his undisputed control of the Bosnian Serb military was an asset in implementing the military provisions of Dayton."

LONDON GUARDIAN: NATO hopes the standoff will lead to the fall of Mladic

The paper today carries an analysis from Bosnia by Julian Borger, who says: "Bosnian Serb political leaders and senior officers were trying to negotiate a compromise yesterday after their struggle for control of the army threatened to escalate into open conflict."

Borger writes: "NATO, which commands a 50,000-strong peacekeeping force in Bosnia, hopes the standoff will lead to the fall of General Mladic, indicted twice by the Hague tribunal for genocide and war crimes."

He writes: "Until a compromise is found, the standoff between police and the army seems likely to continue."

WASHINGTON POST: Clinton has signaled a readiness to participate in a peacekeeping force

Michael Dobbs writes today in an analysis: "Senior NATO officials said (yesterday) that the Clinton administration has signaled its readiness to participate in a follow-on peacekeeping force for Bosnia to replace the U.S.-led force that had been scheduled to pull out of the country by the end of the year." Dobbs says: "The administration's clear hint of readiness to participate in such a force follows months of preparation by U.S. officials, who originally said U.S. military involvement in Bosnia would be limited to a period of 'about one year.' "

Dobbs writes: "All of America's major European allies have been urging the (Clinton) Administration to remain in Bosnia and have insisted they will pull out their troops from the country without American participation. The Russian government has also signaled that it favors a scaled-down force to separate rival Serb and Muslim-Croat forces."

FINANCIAL TIMES: IFOR officers worry about their ability to hold the line

In today's edition of the British newspaper, Anthony Robinson writes in a news analysis: "Crates of U.S. arms meant to strengthen the army of Bosnia's Croat-Moslem federation are stacked up at the port of Ploce on Croatia's Adriatic coast. At the same time, bloody clashes across the border lines between the federation's two entities serve as a reminder that a year after the Dayton agreements brought the warring ethnic groups reluctantly together there is little prospect of refugees returning home.

"As governments and aid bodies at international conferences in Paris this week and in London early next month prepare for the second year of rebuilding the region's battered economies, officers of the multinational peace implementation force (known as IFOR) worry about their ability to hold the line once their mandate expires in six weeks' time and IFOR is replaced by a force probably half its size."