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Perry Says IFOR To Get More Intelligence On Alleged War Criminals

Washington, Feb. 14 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry says the international peace-keeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina will get more intelligence information and photographs about suspected war criminals.

Perry told reporters Tuesday this is, in his words, "a tactical change" to provide better information to the troops so that they can recognize known war criminals when they pass through NATO security checkpoints.

The measure is being instituted in response to widespread criticism that self-styled Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic has traveled about the country with impunity, passing through NATO checkpoints without being challenged.

But Perry stressed that the primary mission of IFOR - the international peacekeepers - is to provide military security and look for weapons and military forces.

"We are not going to be conducting manhunts for indicted war criminals," he said, adding "but if we come across them, we will detain them... and hand them over to the International War Crimes Tribunal."

Apprehending war criminals, the core of a crisis that last week threatened to unravel the hard-won Dayton peace accords, has been resolved with a new, so-called "Rules-of-the-Road" agreement negotiated by U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke earlier this week.

The new rules make clear that only the War Crimes Tribunal has the authority to hold suspected war criminals, a point emphasized Tuesday by U.S. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns.

He also stressed that the U.S. will hold all parties - Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Croats - to all provisions of the Dayton peace accords, saying they cannot pick and choose convenient ones. "We are going to continue to use our influence to make sure all parties adhere to the Dayton accords," Burns said.

White House, spokesman Michael Mccurry noted Tuesday that the Bosnia factions appear to be complying with most of the military terms of the Dayton peace accords. He said "what requires harder work now is implementing civilian aspects of the Dayton accords."

U.S. special envoy Robert Gallucci made a similar comment at a Washington press conference Tuesday, his first since returning from a tour of the Balkans at the weekend.

Gallucci said the process of reconciliation, an essential ingredient of peace in the region, is just beginning and will probably last many months and years. "There is a lot of healing to be done in this country," he said.

Gallucci says it is, as he put it "critically important" to bridge differences between Bosnian Muslims and Croats and maintain their joint federation.

Some local Croatian leaders have objected to sharing power with Muslim authorities and refuse to accept the federation.

Gallucci says the situation in the divided Herzegovinian city of Mostar and elsewhere must be resolved "so that the federation can be established as a viable entity."

The federation was set up in March 1994 as part of an agreement to end fighting between Muslim and Croatian forces and reinforced in the Dayton peace accords. U.S. officials say the federation is an essential component of peace in the region.

At the press conference, Galluci said the focus now is on practical problems of reconstruction and restoring normal civilian life to the war-torn areas. But he says "the enormous amount of destruction in Bosnia" hinders programs to return refugees and displaced persons. "There are no places for people immediately to return to," Gallucci said.

He says he discussed the problem in Geneva with the United Nations Refugee Commission which has a $30 million fund for the resettlement of displaced persons. The World Bank and international donors have similar programs that will take some time to have any impact, Gallucci said.

He said Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims told him of their frustration that the programs are not yet operational but that the effort must be viewed as part of a long-term reconstruction of society.

Gallucci said another major concern that cannot be quickly resolved is security for civilians. He says "slowly, contingents are arriving that are committed to participating in the International Police Task Force training a local police force. "We hope it will in coming weeks and months improve the security situation," Gallucci said.

He said the U.S. and allies are working hard "to put in place a structure of relations between people in Bosnia that will make for one nation."