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There Will Be Lasting Peace In Balkans - But Not On Schedule

Copenhagen, March 20 (RFE/RL) - The former European Union (EU) envoy to the Balkans, Thorvald Stoltenberg, says NATO must continue its mandate in Bosnia beyond the December 1996 deadline.

In an interview with our correspondent in Copenhagen, Stoltenberg said he believes that there will be long-term peace in the Balkans, but that it is unrealistic to expect to establish democratic institutions in Bosnia on the current schedule.

Stoltenberg said he considers it imperative that the United States agrees. He said he expects U.S. President Bill Clinton to keep his promise to withdraw American troops from Bosnia prior to the November 5 U.S. presidential elections. But, he said, a new administration in Washington might continue their mandate. The U.S. is the only power that can bring long-term peace to the Balkans, he said.

Thorvald Stoltenberg, a former Foreign Minister of Norway, was EU mediator in the Balkans for three years. He is currently the Norwegian Ambassador to Denmark.

In the interview, Stoltenberg said that only the U.S. can implement the Dayton peace accord, because the EU does not yet have a coherent foreign policy. He said, however, that the role of Western Europe should not be minimized. The EU operation kept three-million people from starving, while UNPROFOR soldiers died in former Yugoslavia, he said, and the Americans arrived there only when there was no more full-scale war.

The ambassador said that the U.S. must have known that a lasting peace settlement cannot be achieved within the time limits of the Dayton accord. But, he said, considering U.S. internal politics, setting the time limit for deploying the U.S. troops was unavoidable.

The Dayton accords have deficiencies, Stoltenburg acknowledged. However, he said, at the time it was worked out, as he put it, "an imperfect peace was better than a continuing war."America was successful because it used the promises of reward and punishment. Europe couldn't or wouldn't do that, he said.