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Press Review: Intransigence in Mostar

By Don Hill and Katerina Wysocka

Prague, August 6 (RFE/RL) -- In the Bosnian city of Mostar, Bosnian Croats refuse to accept the results of a June 30 election that gave Muslims a controlling majority of the city council. So this city remains divided--a symbol of the divisions that beset all of Bosnia. Many commentators in the West today examine the standoff as a frustrated European Union mission prepares to pull out.

WASHINGTON POST: Croatian president as much to blame as Serb leaders for chaos in Yugoslavia

Writing in the paper over the weekend, Michael Dobbs commented on the influence on Bosnia of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. He wrote: "In the view of many historians, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is almost as much to blame as Serb leaders for plunging the former Yugoslavia into chaos. . . . Tudjman got his 15 minutes in the diplomatic limelight Friday with President Clinton in the Oval Office. In return, he promised again to use his influence with the Bosnian Croats to get them to dismantle a Croatian mini-state in Bosnia that functions in violation of last November's Dayton peace agreement. . . . U.S. officials say that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to dismantle the structures of Herzeg-Bosna overnight. . . . Tudjman has been regarded as one of the most vehement proponents of a separate Croatian zone of influence in Bosnia."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: If the U.S.-EU mission displays weakness, elections in Bosnia may be impossible

The European edition says today in an editorial: "European Union officials have been meeting in Brussels to talk about abandoning their special reconstruction mission to Mostar. . . , physically, spiritually and, above all, politically divided between Muslims and Croats. . . . There is no question that serious effort -- military if need be -- could put an end to the Tudjman-(Serbian President Slobodan) Milosevic game. . . . If the U.S.-EU mission continues to display weakness in the face of Serb-Croat lawlessness, legitimate elections in Bosnia may be impossible this September. Has the Alliance come this far just to throw in the towel when the going gets tough?"

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Failure of a compromise in Mostar is a bad omen

Julius Strauss writes today from Mostar : "Muslim and Croat leaders in the divided city of Mostar played a game of political brinkmanship last night long after a European Union imposed deadline to agree on the formation of a new city council had expired. . . . Meanwhile, the EU's two-year-old mission was preparing to pull out. . . . If the mission now withdraws, it will be a humiliating defeat for EU foreign policy. For the nationwide elections on September 14, the failure of a compromise in Mostar is a bad omen. It sets a precedent for nationalists to block the implementation of (any) vote that doesn't suit them."

HANDELSBLATT: Trusting that national elections will lead to peace is an illusion

In the German newspaper today, Ewald Stein comments : "All the participants of the EU-NATO-UN missions are still staring at the election date as the rabbit at the snake. But if the effort to find an orderly way for Moslems and Croats to live together in a single city is beset with problems, one may trust even less in any illusion that national elections in September. . . would lead to the hoped-for peace. . . . It also would be starry-eyed and reckless to insist on maintaining the already precipitous connection between the election date and the withdrawal of IFOR soldiers. . . . The quarreling parties would take a premature withdrawal as a warrant for new violent conflicts."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Tudjman embraces the occidental mission of "Europeanizing" Moslems

The paper headlines a commentary: "Tudjman plays with fire." Bernhard Kueppers writes : "Croatia is the key to the future of the Dayton peace experiment. Croatia's designs on Bosnia were and are the object of well-founded distrust. . . . On the one hand, Tudjman's HDZ and its Bosnian branch still are working on establishing a Croatian territory that is as homogenous as possible, with the option of later unification with Croatia. . . . On the other hand, Tudjman -- with his background as a nationalist historian -- is still behaving as if he were the protector of the Bosnians, embracing the occidental mission of 'Europeanizing' these Moslems."

THE LONDON TIMES: Tudjman has never accepted the Dayton agreement

The paper urges today in an editorial: "Handle Tudjman with an iron fist in an iron glove." The paper says: "President Tudjman consistently has outwitted European and UN negotiators. With his eye still set on the creation of a Greater Croatia, the former communist, turned nationalist, leader has never accepted the restrictions or the logic of the Dayton agrreement he signed last year. . . . Unless the Mostar Croats accept the local election result and the plan to reunify the shattered city, international willingness to help the rebuilding of Bosnia will fade along with the chances for peace. . . . Mr. Tudjman is a hard man, who has the political instincts of an autocrat. He needs to be addressed in similar language."

TAGESZEITUNG: Rigid conditions for the Croatian leadership must be set up

The German paper says today in an editorial: "Even if a last-moment compromise should be found that saves Mostar from being a divided city, doubts must prevail that such a compromise can last. In Mostar, nationalistic blindness, a need for revenge, and criminality combine virtually hopelessly. In the city itself the options of the Europrean Union are exhausted. Other than the threat of the withdrawal -- more dangerous for the EU itself than for the Croatians -- there are no means for pressure. . . . If the peace process is not to fail entirely, rigid conditions for the Croatian leadership must be set up. . . . The quicker Germany gives up its illusions of friendship with Tudjman, the earlier effective pressure can be put on him."

FINANCIAL TIMES: A stand off in Mostar will spell doom for the final phase of the Dayton accords

Writing from Belgrade, Laura Silber says in an analysis: "The Croat boycott of the city council casts a pall over a Bosnia-wide poll set for September 14. . . . A withdrawal (by the EU mission) would mean another defeat for efforts to unify Croats and Moslems in Mostar, which until 1994 was the scene of the most bitter fighting in the 10-month Croat war against the Muslims. . . . The stand off will spell doom for the final phase of the Dayton accords after the September elections, when the parties are due to build joint governing institutions with the Bosnian Serbs."

LE FIGARO: The EU has no carrot to make the Croats' mouth water

In the French newspaper today, Eric Biegala writes: "An official of the European Union points out today,'The problem is that we don't have a carrot to make the Croats' mouth water. All our reconstruction budgets have already been defined or even spent. The EU has allocated for us only a minimum sum covering the immediate needs of withdrawal.' . . .Deprived of the carrot, the Europeans must resort to the stick' This means to apply pressure, calling on the allied Americans for help. . . . The deadline that the EU set already has passed by, and the European officials admit that negotiations may last for another 24 hours, an obvious sign that everybody expects a last-minute agreement. . . which will enable everybody to save face."