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Bosnian Serbs Seek To Close Peace Envoy's Office


Miroslav Lajcak was the most recent high representative to leave office in frustration.

Miroslav Lajcak was the most recent high representative to leave office in frustration.

SARAJEVO (Reuters) -- Top Bosnian Serb officials have advocated closing the international peace envoy's office in Bosnia, but a think-tank report has warned the fragile Balkan country was still not ready to function on its own.

The fate of the Office of High Representative for Bosnia (OHR), established after the 1992-95 war to oversee the Bosnian peace process, will be decided at an international meeting in Sarajevo on March 26-27.

The high representative has the power to fire elected leaders and overturn laws, if they conflict with the 1995 peace treaty.

Bosnian ethnic leaders have differing views of the OHR -- Serbs want it closed and Muslim Bosniaks and Croats want it to remain until a new administrative arrangement replaces the Dayton peace accords.

Foreign observers, such as the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, say the OHR should continue, because quarrels between divided politicians may indefinitely delay the country's integration into the European Union.

Nebojsa Radmanovic, Serbian chairman of Bosnia's three-man multiethnic presidency, warned that Bosnia could not progress towards Europe as long as it is an "international protectorate."

"For Bosnia, the priority is the closure and transformation of the OHR," Radmanovic told a Sarajevo conference on the European future of the Balkans.

His words were echoed by Milorad Dodik, prime minister of the Republika Srpska, who told the region's parliament in Banja Luka that his government would make every possible effort to remove the obstacles barring the OHR's closure.

Dodik said he expected the OHR to close down in June.

The Republika Srpska is an autonomous region that makes up Bosnia along with the Muslim-Croat Federation.

The international community has set several conditions for the transition of the OHR into the office of the EU special representative, but these conditions are unlikely to be fulfilled before the meeting later this month.

The International Crisis Group said in a report that the Balkan country was still not ready for such a transition and that the OHR should be kept at least until the end of the year.

"Tensions are high, and national leaders are challenging the Dayton settlement more openly than ever before," said senior analyst Marko Prelec. "The end of Bosnia's time as an international protectorate will be most welcome and should come soon, but now is the wrong time to rush the transition."

At the March 26-27 meeting, world powers and international agencies involved in the implementation of the Bosnian peace are expected to appoint a new high representative.

Valentin Inzko, who served as Austria's first ambassador to Bosnia after the war, is tipped to replace Slovak Miroslav Lajcak, who left last month to become his country's foreign minister.
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