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Press Review: Holbrooke's Only 'Modest' Success in Bosnia

  • Joel Blocker

Prague, 11 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - Much Western press commentary in recent days has focused on the efforts of U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke to force implementation of last year's Dayton accords on Bosnia. Most analysts agree that Holbrooke, who spent four days in the former Yugoslavia meeting with high Serbian and other officials, has had only limited success.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The success of Holbrooke's visit remains to be seen.

In a recent commentary (8/8), entitled "Holbrooke's Modest Success in Bosnia," Peter Muench argues that reports of Holbrooke's achievements have been exaggerated. Muench allows that Holbrooke did end "both a dispute over diplomatic representation for Bosnia and (a) row over a telephone network." But, he writes, "not everything that which looks like gold is gold." Thus, says Muench, "on the issue of the ambassador, Holbrooke pushed through exactly the line (the European Union's) Bosnia representative Carlos Westendorp originally wanted: that a Serb be sent to Washington. And," he continues, "the agreement over a 'joint telephone network' appears to be such that there will be three dial codes, one each for the three ethnic areas --just as there are now."

"It remains to be hoped that Holbrooke will still manage to extract something more substantial from the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs," He concludes.

GUARDIAN: Only time will show the success of Holbrooke's visit.

Writing from Sarajevo in today's British daily, Karen Coleman says Holbrooke was able to extract "a promise that the indicted (Bosnian Serb) war criminal Radovan Karadzic will finally disappear form Bosnia politics." In an analysis, she notes that "observers believe Mr. Karadzic's days are now numbered. Increasingly, whatever advantages the Serbs may accrue by protecting him seem to be outweighed by the costs. Pressure by international heavyweights like the U.S. and threats of economic strangulation appear to be finally hitting home." But she concludes that it will take "six to nine months (to tell) where Mr. Holbrooke made real progress on the Karadzic issue."

FINANCIAL TIMES: It will take great effort by international community to arrest Serb leader.

In an analysis in the British daily, Bruce Clark says Holbrooke himself "described the promises (that Karadzic would be banished from Bosnian political life) as inadequate, and hinted strongly that the option of using force to capture (him) and send him for trial to the (international tribunal in) the Hague still existed." Clark believes that Holbrooke's "diplomacy (did lead) to some reinforcement of the position of Mrs. Bijan Plavsic, the Bosnian Serb politician to whom Western nations are lending tactical support in the Serb community's internal power dispute." But he concludes "both U.S. and West Europeans will still require steely nerves if they are to carry out their implied threat of using force to arrest Mr. Karadzic and possibly other Serb figures, such as General Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander."

WASHINGTON POST: U.S. and NATO waiting for signal to arrest Karadzic

In a report form Belgrade, Edward Cody writes senior "U.S. envoys bluntly warned President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia that President Bill Clinton's Administration is prepared to arrest...Karadzic unless he takes himself out of (political) circulation voluntarily." Cody says that the U.S. and NATO "drafted plans several months ago for an operation to capture Mr. Karadzic, should civilian authorities give the order."

"NATO troops," he says, "would provide an outer ring of security, while specially trained commandos would carry out the capture."

NEW YORK TIMES: Scheduled U.S. troop withdrawal less likely.

Correspondent Jane Perlez writes from Belgrade Holbrooke "ended negotiations with...Milosevic Saturday without any major breakthrough." She says Holbrooke himself "acknowledged he was 'skeptical' of a (Milosevic pledge) that Karadzic would be stopped from wielding power behind the scenes in the Serb-held part of Bosnia." Perlez continues: "Instead of dealing with the main threats to a unified Bosnia --the inability of refugees to return home and the persistent power of Karadzic -- Holbrooke spent the bulk of his time haggling over telephone area codes, designs for currency and the appointment of Bosnian ambassadors." She concludes: "The Clinton Administration has become increasingly concerned in the last month that, as efforts to create a functioning country out of Bosnia stagnate and sporadic violence continues, the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. troops by next June looks less and less likely."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Paramilitary police guard war-crimes suspect.

Writing from Sarajevo on Saturday, correspondent Tracy Wilkinson says "NATO has ordered paramilitary police forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including those standing guard for war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, to submit to its control within one week." Wilkinson's report cites unnamed Western officials as saying the NATO order "appears to signal a crackdown on the notorious police units that have blocked refugee returns, threatened NATO and United Nations personnel and harbored people accused of wartime atrocities." The report concludes: "The new order of special police...will most effect an estimated 3,000 agents in the Bosnian Serb Republic who operate as virtual private army loyal to Karadzic (who) keeps them well-paid and well-equipped."

REUTER: Diplomatic score -- Serbs versus Yanks, 2-0.

In an analysis yesterday for the news agency, Belgrade correspondent Jovan Kovacic says that "Holbrooke has gained little from his visit to (the Serb capital), apart from a promise that...Karadzic would finally disappear from Bosnian politics. Citing local analysts and diplomats (unnamed), Kovacic says that Holbrooke "on Saturday gave Serb leaders a period of grace to remove Karadzic..." But he writes that the accord actually cemented "Milosevic's position as the pivotal political power-broker in the region," quoting one Western diplomat as saying: "It ended up with Serbs versus Yanks, 2-0." Kovacic also writes that "sources close to the negotiations said Washington had accepted the deal in order to avoid the bloodshed many fear would result if NATO-Led troops in Bosnia moved to arrest Karadzic..."