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Western Press Review: Oh, Yes! There's Still That Bosnia Matter...

  • Don Hill



Prague, 22 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- With next year's date advancing for the pullout from Bosnia of international peacekeepers and the Bosnian "peace" itself failing to advance, Western press attention increasingly is returning to the Balkan Peninsula.

BALTIMORE SUN: The U.S. aims to rebuke the Serbs and Croats

Several U.S. newspapers take notice in recent days of a renewed concern within the Clinton Administration about the issue. In a news analysis today, Mark Matthews writes: "A worried Clinton administration is beginning a major campaign to shore up Bosnia's fragile peace and prevent a renewed crisis once NATO peacekeepers pull out next year."

Matthews says that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright intends during a visit to Europe next week to scold leaders in the former Yugoslavia. He writes: "The rebuke is aimed particularly at Serbs and Croats, who, officials charge, have fallen down on pledges made at the 1995 U.S.-brokered peace conference in Dayton, Ohio, that ended Europe's bloodiest war in a generation.

"In addition, the United States is organizing a drive to heighten diplomatic and economic pressure. Clinton also has tapped a new special envoy, David Scheffer, to increase American involvement in apprehending and prosecuting war criminals. And the administration is trying to figure out a way to capture the major suspects still free."

BOSTON GLOBE: Some have doubts about Albright's get-tough approach



Elizabeth Neuffer and David L. Marcus, writing today in an analysis, discuss the background of a get-tough speech that Albright is scheduled to deliver today. The writers say: "Albright's speech, a sweeping address on Bosnia to be delivered to U.S. military officials on an aircraft carrier in the Hudson River, is expected to outline economic incentives to reward those who live up to the terms of the Dayton agreement, including the surrendering of indicted war criminals.'

They write: "But (in Washington) and in Bosnia, there are doubts about Albright's get-tough approach and whether it will translate into action on the ground, especially on the issue of war crimes. The Pentagon, for example, has long resisted efforts to have NATO troops arrest indicted war criminals; only eight of the 74 who are charged are in custody."

WASHINGTON POST: Albright is putting her prestige on the line

Michael Dobbs said in a news analysis yesterday that Albright may be trying to engineer a shift in U.S. policy and to establish State Department leadership on the Balkans. He wrote: "During the first Clinton term, Albright was one of the most outspoken proponents of strong action in Bosnia within the administration, and championed the cause of the international war-crimes tribunal. But she has remained largely silent about the issue since becoming secretary, permitting the Pentagon and Secretary of Defense William Cohen to make most of the political moves.

"The latest steps seemed designed in part to reassert State Department primacy in the policy debate over how to implement the Dayton vision of a reunited Bosnia and prevent a return to wholescale ethnic violence following the departure of U.S. troops. Albright has chosen a highly symbolic setting for her policy speech on Bosnia (today). It will be delivered aboard an aircraft carrier in the Hudson River, in front of senior military officers."

Dobbs said: "State Department officials said Albright is putting her prestige on the line by taking such a high-profile position on Bosnia and creating the new post of special envoy for war crimes. At the same time, she is also exposing herself to a certain political risk if the new initiative on Bosnia fails to produce the desired result, and indicted war criminals like Karadzic continue to have huge political influence."

TIMES OF LONDON: Patience is running out concerning failure to implement the Dayton peace accord

In a news analysis yesterday, Tom Walker wrote from Sarajevo that Britain's new defense secretary, George Robertson, also is expressing impatience with Bosnia's intractable political leaders. Walker said: "Making his first tentative steps into the Bosnian quagmire, George Robertson (Tuesday) warned Muslim, Serb and Croatian leaders that the international community's patience was fast running out with their failure to implement the Dayton peace accord.

"Mr Robertson risked criticism for his insistence on holding individual talks with the three members of Bosnia's collective presidency, and particularly for travelling to the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale to meet Radovan Karadzic's hardline successor, Momcilo Krajisnik. Carl Bildt, the high representive for Bosnia, prefers visiting politicians to stay away from the former ski resort, where the siege mentality of the Bosnian Serbs has hindered attempts at ethnic reintegration. But Mr Robertson said there was no rift with Mr Bildt, whom he had seen last week."

Other commentary on Bosnia has centered on the fate of refugees returning to an unreconstructed nation.



LOS ANGELES TIMES: German states are sending Bosnians packing



In a newsfeature in yesterday's edition, Tracy Wilkinson and Mary Williams Walsh wrote from the Bosnian town of Sanski Most: "In the weeks to come, tens of thousands of Bosnian refugees will be returned from their European havens to a country where war has officially ended but reconciliation remains remote. It is the largest forced repatriation in Europe in half a century.

"Germany, refuge to more Bosnians than the rest of Europe together, is taking the aggressive lead. Having first earned high marks for generosity, but now faced with record unemployment and domestic social pressures, German states are swiftly sending Bosnians packing. But German officials are not taking into account the refugees' place of origin. UN experts estimate that 60 percent of Germany's 320,000 Bosnians are Muslims whose hometowns are now part of the enemy Bosnian Serb republic, the Republika Srpska."

NEW YORK TIMES: Many young people are ready to pick up guns again

In Sunday's edition, Chris Hedges wrote from Brcko in Bosnia that the nation continues in turmoil. He said: "The civilian administrators who arrived in Bosnia after the signing of the Dayton peace agreement in December 1995 were supposed to cajole local communities into rebuilding a multiethnic society obliterated by war. But the starkly different visions proffered by (U.S. diplomat Robert Farrand, Brcko's international supervisor under the Balkan peace accord) and the Bosnian Serb leadership highlighted what many now see as the failure of the international diplomats to move the Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims one inch forward."

Hedges wrote: "Many civilian administrators, while acknowledging their failures, say the refusal by NATO leaders to arrest people indicted on charges of war crimes or to protect refugees who want to return, has left them without the coercive power to make the parties respect the peace agreement, which calls for all refugees to be allowed to go home. They also fault international-aid donors for refusing to provide adequate money and help to build a viable economy."

He said: "It is hard to believe that fighting could start again after a war that destroyed over 60 percent of all homes in Bosnia, wiped out most factories and businesses, created a million refugees and plunged tens of thousands of families into destitution and unspeakable grief. But the stagnation, poverty and hopelessness that infect Bosnia, coupled with the hatreds whipped up by the savage fighting, leave many young people ready to pick up guns again. After 18 months, peace has not offered them much. Brcko is filled with destitute Serbs displaced from other parts of Bosnia."
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