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Council of Europe Urges Extension of IFOR Mandate

Strasbourg, France, June 28 (RFE/RL) -- The Council of Europe today called for the NATO-led peace implementation force (IFOR) to remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina past its scheduled departure date at the end of the year.

The Council's Parliamentary Assembly said IFOR should stay until political and economic stability are ensured in Bosnia, and there is no longer a danger of fighting breaking out again.

During a debate on implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton peace accords, Peter Bloetzer, a Swiss Christian Democrat, said "the Dayton agreement put an end to the war, but it has not yet brought about peace." He said it is essential for IFOR to stay because it is the only stabilizing force in Bosnia.

Tadeusz Iwinski, from Poland, agreed that it would be impossible for Bosnia to cope without IFOR, after the end of the year.

U.S. President Bill Clinton has pledged that American soldiers - who make up the largest IFOR troop contingent - would be out by the end of December.

But many other countries with troops on the ground have said that some international force must remain at least through next year.

Miro Lazovic, a representative from Bosnia-Herzegovina, invited to speak to the Assembly urged the international community to give greater priority to the return of Bosnian refugees to their homes. He said so far only 51,000 people out of 1 million refugees have been able to return home. He warned "without repatriation of all there will not be sustainable peace."