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OSCE Studying Bosnia Election Problems

Vienna, April 24 (RFE/RL) - The international organisation responsible for arranging elections in Bosnia is holding talks in Vienna this week on how they should be organised. The talks are also to touch on such issues as human rights, freedom of movement and a free media there.

The talks are being conducted by the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE).

Under the terms of the Dayton peace agreement, the elections should be held no later than September 14 but the election supervisor Robert Frowick has said they may be delayed if democratic conditions are not met. Frowick says a decision to go ahead will require freedom of association, expression and movement and a politically-neutral atmosphere. Moreover, OSCE has said present financing is insufficient and at least 35 million dollars more is needed.

But several parties and politicians have already begun active campaigning.

In practise there will be seven sets of elections - from the presidency down to local officials. According to a booklet issued by OSCE this week, the elections lower level bodies will be held first. To enable refugees to participate, the regulations allow refugees to vote either in their new place of residence or in their prewar homes.

OSCE officials in Vienna today listed the persistence of illegal checkpoints in some towns and cities was one of the problems to be overcome before the elections could be held in a free and fair atmosphere. Even worse, in some places the gangs operating the checkpoints charge fees for passing through.

"Freedom of movement is one of the most basic provisions in the Dayton peace accords," said one OSCE official. But British Foreign Minister Malcolm Rifkind said last week that maintaining freedom of movement was still a major problem in Bosnia.

OSCE officials say that providing a free and independent media in Bosnia is also a problem. Most of the print and electronic media is directly or indirectly controlled or influenced by one or another of the main political parties.

The main problem in developing an independent media is lack of finance. An OSCE spokesman said a number of sources had expressed interest, but in practise few have committed specific funds.

The United Nations organisation, UNESCO, recently announced plans to encourage independent media in Bosnia, including independent television stations, and to train journalists. UNESCO says it will provide seven million dollars to improve the media in Bosnia. About two million of this is supposed to be invested in restructuring state radio and television to bring it up to democratic standards.

But OSCE officials said it was doubtful if these could be effective before the elections.