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Bosnia: Albright Visit To Signal Interest In Restoring Stability

  • Sonia Winter

Washington, 23 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright plans to visit Bosnia next week to signal a sharpened U.S. interest in restoring stability in the region.

Albright told a U.S. Senate subcommittee Thursday that she would visit the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, as well as the mixed ethnic towns of Banja Luka and Brcko.

"It is especially critical that residents work for unity and peace in Brcko," she said. "Because of its strategic location and the terrible ethnic cleansing that occurred there, a peaceful multi-ethnic Brcko would be a powerful symbol to the rest of Bosnia."

Albright said the U.S. goal in Brcko and throughout Bosnia is "to reconnect what has been disconnected, to restore the flow of transportation, communication, commerce and social interaction among the various ethnic communities."

She said the United States and its allies must refocus and re-energize efforts to implement the Dayton Peace Accords.

Emphasizing the point, Albright told the subcomittee that "today and in days to come, we will be rededicating ourselves to the goal of full implementation of the Dayton accords and to a single Bosnian state with two multi-ethnic entities."

U.S. officials had kept up a busy schedule of visits to the region, frequent negotiations with Balkan leaders and a stream of almost daily statements and exhortations from Washington since the Dayton Accords were signed in December 1995.

But the intensity slowed when demonstrations in neighboring Serbia replaced Bosnia as front page news, and a changes in President Bill Clinton's cabinet brought in new senior officials in Washington, including Madeleine Albright in January as Secretary of State.

Earlier this week, the White House announced that the top State Department negotiator for Bosnia, Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum has been nominated Ambassador to Germany.

His replacement will be another career Foreign Service veteran Marc Grossman, currently U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.

In addition, the United States has appointed a special envoy, David Sheffer, to be ambassador-at-large for war crime issues.

At the congressional hearing, senators on the panel expressed particular interest in what the United States is doing to help bring war criminals to justice.

Albright said emphatically that the United States is determined to press ahead "with our partners both inside and outside Bosnia to support the work of the International War Crimes Tribunal in every way we can."

She later amplified some of the points of her testimony in a speech prepared for delivery in New York last night. It was her first major address on U.S. policy in Bosnia.

In the prepared remarks, Albright appealed directly to Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic, Croatia's President Franjo Tudjman and the people of the Serb-ruled Republika Srpska to turn over indicted war criminals to the tribunal.

She warned that U.S. aid will be conditional on "compliance by all parties with the obligation to cooperate with the tribunal," and that this is also "a pre-requisite to our support for assistance by others and our backing for membership in international institutions."

Albright said the same conditions apply to the return of refugees and that only communities in Bosnia that allow displaced people to return home will be eligible for international aid.

She also said that the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia, led by NATO, will take on new civilian tasks, in addition to continuing to enforce the military aspects of the Dayton Accords.

Albright said the peacekeepers will now help with the return of refugees and restoration of telecommunications links in Bosnia -- two areas where Albright said progress has been slow.

To show the steadfastness of America's commitment to achieving a democratic, undivided Bosnia, Albright said the United States plans to open diplomatic missions in the cities of Mostar and Banja Luka.

She also stressed in the New York speech the importance of a free press, deploring its absence in Bosnia.

Albright said "officially controlled media have spewed forth misinformation designed to fuel hate, while independent journalists have been brutalized and harrassed."

She said this was unacceptable and that the United States will expand broadcasts to the region. Albright said Radio Free Europe and Voice of America would air more programs in partnership with local radio stations. She stressed that the United States will continue to support the emergence of independent television and radio in Bosnia.

Albright said the U.S. goal is "to ensure that by the end of this year, every significant community in every part of Bosnia has access to independent radio or television reporting."