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Balkan Report: February 18, 1998

18 February 1998, Volume 2, Number 7

Overhaul for Bosnian Serb Broadcasting. A spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on February 16 that his office and the Republika Srpska signed an agreement for a total reconstruction of Bosnian Serb radio and television broadcasting facilities. The deal covers both financial and technical assistance, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Westendorp's office will name an administrator to supervise the allocation of the aid. The spokesman added that the international community is willing to make a similar arrangement with other broadcasting systems in Bosnia provided that the networks get politics out of their programs.

Kinkel Pledges Money for Bosnian Serbs. In yet another sign that the international community is wasting no opportunity to help the "kinder, gentler" Republika Srpska of President Biljana Plavsic and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told the two in Banja Luka that same day that the Serbs will benefit materially as well as politically if they work to implement the Dayton peace agreement. Kinkel pledged EU support for Plavsic and Dodik and announced the transfer of $6.6 million of EU reconstruction money earmarked for the Bosnian Serbs. He also promised several million dollars to set up a Bosnian Serb development fund, as well as money to outfit offices for Dodik's government.

It was Kinkel's eleventh trip to Bosnia as foreign minister -- and his first to Banja Luka (Dodik recently made his first trip abroad as prime minister, namely to Bonn - see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report, February 11, 1998). Kinkel told his hosts that while Germany opposes those who violate the Dayton agreements, there is "no anti-Serb attitude in Germany." Plavsic, for her part, said Kinkel's visit "will perhaps mark a turning point in the relations" between the Bosnian Serb entity and Germany. "It is good to have a friend in the European Union who will defend our interests with objectivity and I think we have found a good friend." Such remarks about Germany from a prominent Serbian leader would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.

Kinkel added that Bonn is always ready to help fund projects in Bosnia to enable refugees to go home. Germany is host to about 240,000 Bosnian refugees, of whom 170,000 are from the Republika Srpska. Turning to a more delicate topic, Kinkel said that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic should turn himself in to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. This remark brought cat-calls from some of the Serbs present, but Plavsic added that her guest did not press her "to make any promises" regarding the surrender of war crimes suspects.

Plavsic Fires Army Chief. And while she clearly welcomed the advent of bounty from the international community, Plavsic seems not to have forgotten Mao Zedong's dictum that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." On February 16, she fired General Pero Colic as commander of the Bosnian Serb army and named General Momir Talic to replace him. Colic succeeded indicted war criminal General Ratko Mladic as commander in November 1996 and subsequently claimed to steer a middle course between Plavsic and her rivals in Pale. He nonetheless remained too close to the Pale faction for Plavsic, who regards First Army Corps commander Talic as her principal supporter in the military.