Lyon, France; July 1 (RFE/RL) -- The summit conference of the G-7 group of major industrial democracies, plus Russia, wound up providing what participants hope will be a major advancement in dealing with war-torn Bosnia.
U.S. President Bill Clinton launched the initiative to deal with Bosnia at the summit meeting of the heads of state of France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Italy, Canada, and the United states when they first gathered in Lyon, France, on Thursday. But he really pushed it when Russia's representative, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, joined the meeting on Friday.
On Saturday, the group, including Russia, issued a statement on "decisions" concerning Bosnia, which included promises of assistance to get Bosnia through its elections in September, but also threats of sanctions against any of the parties to the Dayton peace accords who is seen as protecting war criminals.
The language was aimed at Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic most specifically, saying he must "step down immediately and permanently" from public functions, take no part in governmmental decisions and transfer all of his powers "completely" to new leadership. U.S. officials characterized the demand as "wanting Karadzic out of office, out of power and out of town" -- meaning in the custody of the International War Crimes tribunal in the Hague.
Somewhat surprisingly, Russia signed on to the statement, and at a press conference, Chernomyrdin said he accepted the statement and agreed with the demand for Karadzic to step down.
However, Chernomyrdin indicated that he believes Karadzic has already done pretty much what the summit is demanding. The Russian Prime Minister said Karadzic has left office and the only thing he is doing now is attempting to make sure that everyone -- every ethnic group -- is treated equally in Bosnia.
Still, it was a strong show of international solidarity and adds support to the chief international diplomat in Bosnia, Carl Bildt, in the actions he would like to take to have Karadic taken into custody. The British foreign minister and others said they wanted to set a deadline of July 1 for Karadzic to be out, but summit leaders said no specific deadline was included.
At the same time, Clinton announced three new programs to assist Bosnia's return to peaceful development.
First, he said, the U.S. will donate 15 million dollars to pay for American military forces to train and employ demobilized soldiers in Bosnia to help clear the estimated three million landmines that still dot the countryside. Until those mines are cleared, said the president, "no child will be able to walk in safety and life cannot return to normal."
Secondly, Clinton said the U.S. will make a start-up donation of two million dollars to fund the creation of an international Blue Ribbon Commission to promote a full and timely accounting of the estimated 12,000 people who are still missing from the war. Clinton said the commission, to be chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, will work with international agencies to try to locate the missing or find out what happened to them so as "to reduce the anguish of their families and lessen the tension between the parties."
Finally, Clinton said the U.S. would contribute five million dollars to start a Bosnian Women's initiative. Clinton said that after five years of war in which so many men were killed, "Bosnia's future may depend more than ever upon its women." The initiative will "provide training and loans to help women find jobs and create businesses so they can support their families and get their nation going again."
The U.S. programs and donations -- minor as they are -- are intended to give the peace process in the former Yugoslav republic a solid push forward.
The eight leaders also called on nations which have promised part of the first year's needed 1,000 million dollars for desperately needed infrastructure rebuilding to accelerate their donations. They added that a successful election September 14 in Bosnia -- and local help in putting Karadzic and others charged with war crimes before the Hague tribunal -- can lead to international aid, too.
Most specifically, the leaders said that if the "new leadership of Republika Srpska" cooperates with the international community, financial assistance could start flowing there too.