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Western Press Review: Balkan Turmoil Commands International Attention

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba

Prague, 6 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The Balkans are acting like, well, the Balkans. Unrest in this cranky European cranny draws substantial Western press commentary today.

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: When the West's efforts run dry, the only solution will be a Dayton Two

An editorial signed by Peter Munch offers the reminder that every firemen knows that a fire is truly extinguished only when the last embers are out. The writer says: "When the international community took on the reconstruction of Bosnia after reaching the Dayton accord, it disregarded this simple truth. It threatened for 18 months, without implementing the threats. It declared ultimatums that remained quietly buried. And it tried to entice with money which it promised to pour out to Bosnia from a cornucopia." Munch writes: "When the new efforts of the West run dry (because the problems outlive the solutions) then there is only one solution -- a Dayton Two."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Implementing Dayton has been far too slow

Defense correspondent Christopher Bellamy writes in a news analysis that the new international representative to Bosnia has threatened to impose undefined punishments for continued harboring of persons sought on war crimes charges by the International Tribunal in the Hague. "In the toughest warning since the Dayton accord was signed 18 months ago," Bellamy writes, "(High Representative) Carlos Westendorp said he would start by trying to persuade the authorities in the two entities within Bosnia and in Serbia and in Croatia to hand over indicted war criminals as required by Dayton."

Bellamy says: "Immediately after the accord, the peace implementation force took the view that peace was more urgent than justice, and that attempts to seize indicted war criminals would be resisted. But after 18 months, most of the wanted men remain free, and progress toward implementing Dayton has been far too slow."

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Zajedno's infighting is a boon for Milosevic

In the same newspaper, correspondent Julius Strauss writes from the Serbian capital, Belgrade, that the Serbian opposition coalition that led the street protests that almost brought down the government of President Slobodan Milosevic is near collapse because of internal squabbles at the top. Straus writes: "The infighting in (Zajedno) has come as an unexpected boon for Mr. Milosevic and has revived his chances of riding out a storm of national discontent."

He says: "At the heart at the row is (Vuk) Draskovic's charge that (Zoran) Djindjic, whose nomination for mayor of the capital he supported, has broken a promise to back him for the post of president of Serbia in elections that must be held before the year's end."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Milosevic is an excellent tactician

Matthias Rub concurs that Milosevic seems to be surviving politically. In a commentary headlined, "Milosevic Sits Firm In The Saddle Again While The Opposition Argues," Rub says: "The shock did not last long. Only four months have passed since Serbian President Milosovic was forced to recognize the victory in the local elections of the opposition Zajedno." Rub writes: "All that seems to have happened long ago. (Meanwhile) it has been reconfirmed that Milosovic is no strategist and makes grave mistakes; but he knows how to free himself from every hopeless entanglement and remains an excellent tactician."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Milosevic continues to wield power

Rolf Paasch comments that Milosevic doesn't show any sign of fading. Paasch writes: "He continues to wield power -- and hold all the options to keep it. As if nothing had happened. No war in neighboring Bosnia, no ethnic cleansing using his paramilitary personnel, no short-lived ostracism at the hands of Western diplomacy. Not to mention the demonstrations in his own country. Slobodan Milosovic continues to rule, if not as Serbian president, then soon as president of the federation of rump Yugoslavia."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Albright is right to reaffirm the importance of dealing with war crimes

The paper says in an editorial, "If, as President Clinton is fond of saying, steps like the expansion of NATO presage a new era for Europe and the world, Bosnia and its neighbors remain a crucial first test of that vision."

The U.S. newspaper says: "Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's recent tour of the Balkans highlighted unresolved problems in that turbulent corner of Europe. And the months just ahead -- from Bosnia's municipal elections this fall to the planned pullout of US troops next June -- are critical."

The Monitor asks, "How can the U.S. and its allies in the Dayton process help counter the slide toward separation, partition, and perpetuated conflict?" And answers: "Albright is right to reaffirm the importance of dealing with war crimes and allowing refugees to return." Calling for a number of modifications in international policy, the editorial adds: "Finally, forget about rigid withdrawal deadlines for NATO-led forces. Follow-up forces will be needed far beyond the U.S. deadline next year."

NEW YORK TIMES: The Clinton administration is not willing to overlook the unsavory Croatian government

In "The Week in Review" section Sunday. Chris Hedges wrote from Zagreb, Croatia, in a news analysis, that the United States has lost patience with its former Balkan ally. He wrote: "During the war in the former Yugoslavia, the United States developed a close alliance with Croatia in the battle to push back the Serbs in Bosnia. Now Croatia finds itself in a bitter dispute with its old patron. Croatia's flagrant violations of the Dayton peace agreement, its intolerant nationalism and its refusal to permit a free and independent press were once dismissed in Washington as minor infractions, but now they are assailed as unacceptable."

He wrote: "What has changed? The political stance of (President Franjo) Tudjman, a former communist general, remains consistent. But with the war over and Croatia no longer a useful counterweight to Serbian aggression, the Clinton administration is no longer willing to overlook the unsavory character of the Croatian government."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: The peace in Albania is not being kept

In neighboring Albania, commentator Andrew Gumbel writes that an Italian-led peacekeeping force seems ineffectual and uncertain of its mission. He says: "The multinational force has been in place for more than a month, but most Albanians are at a loss to understand what exactly it is doing. The peace certainly is not being kept, what with shootings, robberies and bomb attacks hitting the headlines daily. The 6,000 soldiers have done nothing to intervene in the violence and precious little to deter it, since their mandate precludes any police activities."

Gumbel writes: "Elections are due on June 29, but even here the force's role is painfully unclear. (It is) hamstrung by a grudgingly granted and highly limited mandate."