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UN Action In Republika Sprska Backed By U.S.

High Representative Paddy Ashdown (file photo) Washington, 30 June 2004 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. government says it strongly supports the UN high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, who fired 60 Bosnian Serb officials over the failure to arrest top war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic and his associates.

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters in Washington today that the fired officials and the Serbian Democratic Party have prevented Bosnia from fulfilling its obligations to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Ashdown said in Sarajevo that the officials he removed included parliament speaker Dragan Kalinic, a wartime ally of Karadzic, and Interior Minister Zoran Djeric.

"I have, therefore, decided to take measures to clean out the corrupt and obstructionist structures in the RS [Republika Srpska] at all levels and across the entity, but especially within the SDS [Serbian Democratic Party] and to root out those people who bear the heaviest responsibility for creating a climate of secrecy, intimidation, and criminal impunity that allows indicted war criminals to evade justice," Ashdown said.

Karadzic has been indicted by a UN tribunal at The Hague on charges of genocide for his role during the Bosnian conflict, including the Bosnian Serb massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

Ashdown, as the international community's high representative in Bosnia, has sweeping powers to remove officials seens as obstructing the Dayton peace accord.

Ashdown said: "In all, I am removing some 60 people today: Eleven will be removed indefinitely, 48 may return to public life once Radovan Karadzic is in The Hague and BiH [Bosnia-Herzegovina] and especially its entity, the RS [Republika Srpska], is in full compliance with its international obligations under the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia]."

The State Department's Ereli said Ashdown was also imposing a $600,000 fine on the Serbian Democratic Party, freezing all known existing party bank accounts, and also freezing the assets of some indiividuals who have provided financial, logistical, and security support for Karadzic.

Ereli said the United States is also taking action. "For its part and in support of the high representative's actions, the United States is freezing the assets of a Republika Srpska-owned firm and three Republika Srpska officials who have provided financial, logistical and security assistance to Radovan Karadzic," he said.

Ereli said Washington is determined to help bring Balkan war-crime suspects to justice.