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Press Review: Karadzic's Political Future, Yeltsin's Health

Prague, July 1 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press focuses its commentary today on the political future of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and concerns over the health of Russian President Boris Yeltsin two days before the run-off election. Carl Bildt, the top civilian administrator for the Bosnian peace accord, announced yesterday that he had received a letter of resignation from Karadzic, but there is widespread skepticism that Karadzic will actually step down now. Bildt said Karadzic had turned over power to his deputy, Biljana Plavsic. But Mrs. Plavsic told reporters yesterday in Pale, the Bosnian Serb headquarters, that Karadzic will remain in office until the Bosnian national elections are held on Sept. 14. As for Yeltsin, he has not been seen in public since last Wednesday and has cancelled today's scheduled meeting with the presidents of Ukraine and Moldova.

Chris Hedges writes a news analysis today in the New York Times about karadzic's resignation letter. Hedges says Bildt's statement that Karadzic has resigned "was denied by Bosnian Serbs, leaving open the possibility of renewed international sanctions against Serbia. But Western diplomats who saw the letter said it was vague and did not include a firm commitment to relinquish power."

Hedges quotes a senior Western diplomat as saying "as usual the Bosnian Serbs are playing around, promising one thing and doing another. This has been the pattern of the Bosnian Serb leadership throughout the war. We should have learned by now."

The French newspaper Liberation writes: "Once again, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, is sowing confusion about his departure from public life. For more than a month, Karadzic has been playing with the nerves of his detractors, announcing his imminent resignation one moment and his candidacy for the presidency of the Republika Srpska the next." But, Liberation says, whether Karadzic's most recent announcement is real or false, there are signs that the international community is making progress in its efforts to force him from public life. "If Karadzic's letter resolves nothing in itself, it at least shows that he is increasingly under pressure and is obliged to jettison some ballast."

An editorial today in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung says: "For months it was unthinkable that Radovan Karadzic would be elected again after the Serbian leader was accused of war crimes. When no one else stepped in, Karadzic bloomed again and is responsible for the delays in the peace process. A glowing retirement will no longer be accepted. The situation is now serious in regards to his career in office."

A news analysis today in the London Times says that "there are fears that it (the announcement of Karadzic's resignation) was merely a ploy to escape the threat of new trade sanctions. . . . Dr. Karadzic announced in April that he was transferring his powers to Mrs. Plavsic, but it soon became clear that he had not done so."

The Times notes that Karadzic's announcement came after the G-7 nations met this weekend and threatened to reimpose sanctions if Karadzic did not resign all political functions by today.

The Financial Times writes a news analysis today concerning Yeltsin's health. It says: "(Yeltsin's) vanishing act has provided valuable ammunition in the final days of the campaign for Mr. Gennady Zyuganov, his younger and more vigorous Communist rival in the poll." The Times quotes Zyuganov as saying, "If we're just talking about laryngitis then there would be no reason to cancel meetings with officials. In my view, it's a lot more complicated. On the other hand, at 65, after two serious heart attacks, you can't be in good health. Any country doctor will tell you that."

James P. Gallagher writes today in the Chicago Tribune that Yeltsin's ". . . (campaign) organizers are alarmed that Yeltsin's absence from the campaign spotlight at a time when he should be driving hard to energize his supporters could cause voter turnout to drop sharply and erase a narrow lead over the Communist challenger. . . . Yeltsin aides have been saying privately for almost two weeks that the president was dangerously run down. To preserve his health in the final days of the campaign, some close advisers urged him to cancel all appearances outside Moscow."

The Wall Street Journal Europe says: "presidential aides strongly denied that Mr. Yeltsin's absence was linked to the same heart troubles that put him in the hospital twice last year. . . . Polls in the first round of voting understated the support of Mr. Zyuganov's committed voters, while concerns about Mr. Yeltsin's health could keep his more loosely knit electorate at home."

David Hoffman, writing today in the Washington Post, says "a source close to the Yeltsin campaign said the president's team is worried that his supporters might fail to go to the polls during the second round if they think Mr. Yeltsin is seriously ill." According to the same source, Mr. Yeltsin's team is hoping it can demonstrate his vitality just as a new wave of anti-Communist, anti-Zyuganov campaign commercials hits the airwaves. The source said that if Mr. Yeltsin remains out of sight, his re-election drive, which depends on a high turnout, could be in trouble.

The New York Times wrote an editorial on Saturday in which it said: "It is hard to tell these days whether anyone is minding the Kremlin. . . . Moscow is always awash in rumors, but the recent run of Kremlin intrigue has created a dangerous climate of instability at a time of high political anxiety in Russia. It all rekindles questions about Yeltsin's leadership only days after he finished first in the initial round of presidential balloting and seemed ready to win a second term by defeating Gennady Zyuganov, the communist candidate. Instead of steadying his government and his campaign team for a final sprint to Election Day, Yeltsin seems to have lost control of both. That may prove untrue, but many signs point to a leadership vacuum that has been brashly filled by Alexander Lebed."