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Bosnia: Credible Municipal Elections Are Crucial, Says U.S.

Washington, 28 August 1996 (RFE/RL) - The United States says municipal elections are pivotal to a free, democratic Bosnia. That is why the U.S. administration insists these polls cannot go on next month because of alleged voting registration irregularities.

The municipal polls were scheduled to be conducted on September 14. On Tuesday, U.S. diplomat Robert Frowick, chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Bosnia, postponed them for an unspecified future date. The Bosnian Serbs responded that they would go ahead with them anyway.

The OSCE is charged with supervising and certifying the elections through a mandate under the Dayton peace accords.

John Kornblum, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian affairs, told reporters in Washington Tuesday that any attempt to hold these polls would go un-recognized by the international community. He said the irregularities were "particularly on the Serb sides ... but also on the Croatian side."

The Dayton accords call for four levels of elections: national, presidential, entity elections of new governments for the federation as well as for the Republica Srpska and municipal.

The election in which the population makeup is the "most critical -- both for the political balance in the cities but also for the implementation of the peace -- is the municipal elections," said Kornblum.

National and other elections will go on as scheduled in mid-September in the area controlled by a Muslim-Croat federation and a region run by Bosnian Serbs.

The election process, Kornblum notes, is international with the standards established by the OSCE.

"Nobody expects this to be an absolutely perfect election," the U.S. diplomat says. "Our goal here is to conduct credible elections, effective elections, which are as free and fair as possible."

Kornblum says Bosnian Serbs were trying to "pack districts" by registering unqualified voters and that the Croatians were attempting to do the same -- though not as blatantly.

Kornblum is flying to the Balkans today to meet with the acting president of the Bosnian Serb republic, Biljana Plavsic, and to check on guarantees Bosnian Croats are dissolving their government offices and blending them into the federation with the Muslims.

The trip was planned to coincide with the scheduled dissolution Saturday of a separate Bosnian Croat government -- and before Bosnia's municipal elections were postponed, he said..

Kornblum is scheduled to meet with Plavsic in Banja Luka. He is also scheduled to meet with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb and with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade.