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Press Review: Peace Issues In Bosnia; War In Chechnya

Prague, Feb. 9 (RFE/RL) - The delicately-blanced peace accord in Bosnia and the smoldering conflict in Chechnya have returned to a top spot on the agenda for Western commentators.

The Wall Street Journal Europe labeled an editorial today "Dayton Reckoning." The Journal said: "With the arrests in Sarajevo of two Bosnian Serbs, the executors of the Dayton accord will have to come clean about how they plan to square the circle. The dilemma, as much a moral one as a political one, has to do with the growing disconnection between why we are in Bosnia and what we're doing there.... Russia weighed in yesterday on the side of the Bosnian Serbs, demanding the release of the two soldiers.... Bosnia's main hope is that the West will enforce not just a separation of the warring sides but a respect for the standards of international law.... We don't see how you can build a lasting peace on the current quicksand. But then, perhaps that goal was too ambitious for Dayton."

Writing from Davos, Switzerland, in the International Herald Tribune, columnist Flora Lewis says: "The Bosnian peace is very fragile.... While the soldiers have arrived and the shooting has stopped, the same slow response, the same huge chasm between rhetoric and action that characterized world reaction during four years of wars are marking the new phase. It won't do." Lewis continues: "Money is important. Without resources, police needed for security, housing needed for returning refugees, jobs needed for a totally devastated economy, won't be available and there will be no reconciliation.... But more than money is urgently required. The key to implementing the Dayton pledge is to make Bosnia 'one country with two entities.' "

In the Dallas Morning News today, Richard Whittle writes: "The issue of war crimes -- a danger to Bosnia's peace all along -- flared into a crisis yesterday, prompting Secretary of State Warren Christopher to dispatch a diplomatic rescue team to the region.... Christopher.... sent Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke to try to dissuade Bosnia's Serbs from disrupting implementation of the peace accords.... The Dayton accords require all three sides to cooperate with the U.N. tribunal, which has issued 52 indictments. But the peace deal also guaranteed all sides freedom of movement throughout Bosnia.... Christopher's action signals rising concern within the Clinton administration about the difficulty of implementing civilian aspects of the Dayton accords."

The London Times says in an editorial today that, "If (Mostar and Sarajevo) become Balkan Berlins, permanently divided, all bets are off for lasting peace in Bosnia." The Times comments: "Sarajevo's reunification is the prime symbol and test of the readiness of Bosnia's separate Serb and Muslim-Croat entities to coexist in a federal Bosnian republic.... The Serbs have been looking for an excuse to avoid handing the Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo to Bosnian government control by March 19, as required by Dayton.... This cannot be countenanced. But the Americans must also increase pressure on the Bosnian government, which is in retreat from the multicultural goals which won it so much international support."

The Los Angeles Times published this analysis today by writers Dean E. Murphy and Tracy Wilkinson: "The Bosnian Serb military commander angrily broke off contacts (yesterday) between his forces and the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, the latest -- and perhaps most serious -- threat to further implementation of the U.S.-brokered peace accord. The move.... was denounced by NATO officials as unjustified and counterproductive. The Bosnian Serb commander's declaration also invited unusually stern warnings from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that its peacekeepers... will not stand idly by as the accord unravels on their watch.... The recent events mean that the Bosnian Serbs have effectively isolated themselves from the peace process at a time when consensus among the former warring sides is crucial to keeping implementation on track."

President Borist Yeltsin's speech in Moscow yesterday acknowledging the political cost of the conflict in Chechnya and announcing the assignment of Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin to seek a solution attracted press comment and analysis.

Richard Boudreaux writes today in the Los Angeles Times: "By assigning (Chernomyrdin) to weigh the options and return to the council with a plan, Yeltsin appeared to be turning away from more hawkish advisers for now. It was Chernomyrdin who negotiated the bloodless end to a hostage crisis last June that led Chechen and Russian fighters to a summer peace accord that collapsed during the autumn. Chernomyrdin said (yesterday) that no peace plan will work unless the Chechen rebels agree to it -- a sign that he favors resuming talks with delegates of Gen. Dzhokhar M. Dudayev, the ousted Chechen president. The separatist leader is in a position to reject any peace initiative or to engage in talks that might help Yeltsin over a big obstacle to re-election. "

In The New York Times today, Michael Specter writes: "Russia's war for Chechnya reached a dangerous new impasse (yesterday).... (It) could not come at a worse moment for President Boris Yeltsin.... As he prepares to announce next week his candidacy for a second term, Yeltsin has clearly become tormented by the threat the conflict poses to his presidency. ... But every day that Yeltsin's war continues is a day in which Russian soldiers die. Each day is one in which the country is reminded how far it has wandered from the era when it was, indeed, a great power. And those are days which Yeltsin, if he truly wants to retain his presidency, cannot possibly afford to have continue much longer."

In its current issue, the British magazine, The Economist, sees cause for cautious optimism. The Economist says: "This week, Mr. Yeltsin seemed closer than ever to the political fix, which means relaunching a viable Chechen government.... The Chechen war has strained Russia's economy and its fragile democracy. It has helped preserve some brutal and militarist imperatives from the Soviet era that democracy might otherwise have tempered. It has divided reasonable opinion, and fed the fires of the far right. If Mr. Yeltsin finds a way to end it, the applause will be well deserved."