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Western Press Review: Former Yugoslavia -- Brink Of Change?

  • Don Hill

Prague, 8 October 1997(RFE/RL) -- Developments in the Balkans, including the surrender Monday of 10 Bosnian Croats suspected of war crimes, have excited a flurry of Western press commentary on the former Yugoslavia and prospects for peace there.

NEW YORK TIMES: Croatia tries to improve its standing with the U.S.

Correspondent Chris Hedges wrote yesterday from Belgrade that the mass surrender of Bosnian Croat war crimes indictees comprised an attempt by Croatian leaders to mend relations with the United States. He wrote: "After several months of intense negotiations between Washington and Croatia, 10 Bosnian Croats, including one of the most-wanted war crimes suspects in Bosnia, turned themselves in to the international tribunal in The Hague on Monday. The surrender of the group -- which included Dario Kordic, a powerful Bosnian Croat political leader accused of engineering an 'ethnic cleansing' campaign -- was a major step in Croatia's effort to improve its standing with the United States."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: This is breakthrough for the war crimes tribunal

Thomas Roser comments today that the arrest of Kordic is significant not only for international reasons but also for legal issues his trial may help address. Roser writes: "The detention of Kordic is a particular breakthrough for the war crimes tribunal. The former deputy head of government of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Croat republic is believed to have been responsible for the systematic expulsion and massacre of Moslem civilians in central Bosnia between 1992 and 1993." The writer says: "The decisive factor in the prosecution gaining a guilty verdict will be whether it can prove that Kordic was responsible for war crimes committed by the Bosnian Croat troops. troops.

DE VOLKSKRANT: Proving war crimes is the most important issue

The Netherlands newspaper commented that this problem would also occupy the judges in a trial against former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (as follows). 'Should Karadzic ever be brought to court, this could be the most important issue.' "

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: There are three huge orders

The surrenders and other events indicate that basic changes are occurring in the Balkans says an editorial today. The newspaper writes the changes suggest that the United States and its allies should stay involved.

The editorial says: "The warlike emotions that still grip Bosnia and other parts of former Yugoslavia will subside as three fundamental conditions are met: Those responsible for atrocities have to be brought to justice. Peoples turned against each other by ethnic cleansing have to be reconciled. The international community needs to make a long-term commitment to remain in Bosnia until that country's rebuilding is much further along than it's likely to be by next June. Huge orders all. But there has been movement -- if not always progress -- on all three of these fronts recently. Croatia's cooperation in the surrender of 10 Bosnian-Croat war crimes suspects is encouraging. Their presence in the dock should give the work of the tribunal at The Hague fresh momentum. It should also build pressure for similar cooperation from the Bosnian Serbs."

The editorial says: "The third element, international commitment, hinges on Washington. And the Clinton administration has dropped plenty of hints that it anticipates involvement in Bosnia beyond next June's scheduled pullout of the 8,000 Americans now part of the NATO Stabilization Force."

It concludes: "It makes sense to sustain the current international involvement. The alternative could be even more costly intervention as war rekindles on NATO's southern flank."

NEW YORK TIMES: The Administration can avoid disaster only by dropping its current policy

John J. Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political science professor, wrote in a commentary published yesterday : "The Clinton Administration has gotten itself into a real pickle in Bosnia. Congress wants American troops out by June 1998, but the Clinton team has no exit strategy. Indeed, its current policy of keeping Bosnia together guarantee an endless American military commitment. Congress will eventually compel a withdrawal -- whether in 1998 or later -- because the United States cannot keep troops in Bosnia forever.

"But war will erupt again when we leave, bringing vast harm to Bosnia and jeopardizing American policy in Europe. The Administration can avoid this disaster only by dropping its current policy and moving now to organize the peaceful partition of Bosnia. Only a managed partition can let the United States leave without triggering a new war." Mearsheimer concludes: "Partition is an ugly answer to the Bosnian question, but far better than the violent breakdown of Dayton that otherwise lies ahead."

WASHINGTON POST: Bosnian Serb nationalists have suffered repeated setbacks

Lee Hockstader says today that the surrenders are part of a general shift of power away from the Balkan nationalists. He writes: "Rigid Bosnian Serb nationalists blocking the U.S.-mediated peace plan for Bosnia have suffered repeated setbacks in recent weeks and are in their weakest position since the war ended here nearly two years ago, analysts say."

Hockstader's analysis goes on: "The Bosnian Serb hard-liners have frustrated Western peace efforts in Bosnia by refusing to hand over indicted war crimes suspects, including the wartime president, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, General Ratko Mladic. They steadfastly have refused to allow refugees to return to their homes, as the peace process envisions. And many still cling to the idea that the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia might become an independent state or be incorporated into a Greater Serbia, notions ruled out by the U.S.-brokered peace settlement.

"But in the last six weeks, the Serb hard-liners loyal to Karadzic have suffered one loss after another." He lists the following:

"The defection of several police stations."

"A disastrous attempt to stage a rally in the town of Banja Luka, Plavsic's stronghold, which ended with its leaders fleeing town under a hail of stones and eggs."

"The voluntary surrender Monday of 10 Bosnian Croat war crimes suspects."

"NATO's seizure last week of four television transmitters, which shut down Pale's ability to broadcast its unyielding propaganda."

LE MONDE: An unpleasant situation for Slobodan Milosevic

Denis Hautin-Gulraut described yesterday what he said was another setback for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic -- The abortive outcome of Sunday's runoff election in Serbia. The analysis said: "To the difficulty of managing this results of the poll in his disfavor will be added, for Slobodan Milosevic an additional unpleasant situation: the visit in the Serbian capital of the American emissary Robert Gelbart who will transmit the consternation of the United States about the police repression of the last week demonstrations in Kosovo and Belgrade."

WASHINGTON POST: The force needs to be true to its mission

Monday's editorial says that the TV towers seizure in Bosnia was an uncomfortable, necessary evil. "No citizen of the West can be entirely comfortable with the NATO-led peacekeepers' seizure of four television broadcasting towers in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia. The act appears to thrust the peacekeeping force deep into a sensitive internal sector where an outside military establishment should rightly fear to tread. A similar step taken by armed forces in a democratic country would set off convulsions.

"In fact, seizure of the towers is essential to enabling the peacekeeping force to carry off its Dayton peace accords mission of moving Bosnia back toward a democratic order and ethnic coexistence. It should have been done long ago. That it is being done now is a welcome sign of the vigor the force needs to be true to its mission."
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