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Koschnic Urges IFOR Troops To Stay On In Bosnia Past 1996

Strasbourg, France, April 25 (RFE/RL) - The former European Union administrator for Mostar, Hans Koschnick, said today it would be "premature" for the NATO-led Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) to leave Bosnia-Herzegovina at the end of the year as scheduled.

The United States says its troops will leave at the end of December. Koschnick said the departure of the American soldiers could be accepted as long as enough European troops stay to prevent armed fighting from breaking out again.

Koschnick made his comments to a committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, this morning, he said the European military commanders whom he had consulted believe that IFOR should stay beyond December. Koschnik added, "but not 30 year as in Cyprus," he said IFOR and other international bodies like the EU should help Bosnia establish civilian structures so that normal life can resume.

Koschnick, who resigned as EU administrator after failing to overcome rifts between Croats and Muslims in the divided city of Mostar, said he is not pessimistic about the future of Bosnia. He said all ethnic groups - Muslims, Croats, Serbs, Jews and others - had lived together peacefully in Mostar for hundreds of years. Even so, he said that the wounds caused by more than three years of war and nationalist propoganda could take as long as a generation to heal.