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Western Press Review: The End Of The Beginning In Bosnia?

By Katarzyna Wysocka

Prague, 20 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press focuses today on prospects in Bosnia after the elections on Saturday. Commentators deal with efforts of Western diplomacy to preserve peace in Bosnia, with the efficacy of the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, and with Germany's decision to repatriate Bosnian refugees.

NEW YORK TIMES: The elections were no victory for idealism

The paper editorializes today: "Once the election is certified, the Dayton peace agreement permits, but does not require, the UN Security Council to revoke international trade sanctions against Serbia. These sanctions were suspended late last year. But the UN delegated power to international civil and military officials in Bosnia to reimpose them if necessary, to guarantee a measure of Serbian cooperation with the election process." The editorial concludes: "These elections, like the Dayton peace agreement itself, were no victory for idealism. They represent another imperfect but valuable step away from the horror of ethnic slaughter toward a chance of something better. With the United States still promising to bring home its peacekeeping forces by the end of the year, a commitment that could change after election day, sanctions may be the main lever left to sustain the Bosnian peace."

DIE WELT: The West has to scale down its demands to succeed in Bosnia

In today's edition of the German newspaper, Carl Gustaf Strohm comments: "Complications, complexes and fear created by history ignore short-term Western parliaments and presidential elections." Strohm continues: "The West therefore should set itself modest goals and refrain from false solutions. For instance, it is both hypocritical and nonsensical to advocate multiethnic co-existence among the nationalities in Sarajevo and Mostar when one is unwilling to create the same thing in Foca, Visegrad, Banja Luca or Srebrenica. This would mean taking back from the Serbs the conquests which the Dayton agreement allowed them to keep. But what NATO general would dare to order a march into the former Muslim territories if they are not even willing to capture Radovan Karadzic? If the West wants to succeed in Bosnia, it will have to scale down its demands."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Mass murderer Mladic has delivered calm on the ground

Washington Post writer Jim Hoagland comments today: "If there were perfect justice, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic would be rotting in hell instead of strolling the quiet streets of this bucolic Bosnian Serb mountain village (of Pale) pretty much when they choose." Hoagland writes: "Justice in Bosnia is tempered and made imperfect by the operational needs of the NATO-led Implementation Force, which patrols Bosnia's cease-fire lines. The force's commanders have decided that they need the mass murderer Mladic exactly where he is. As Serbian commander, he has delivered calm on the ground since the Western troops arrived last December." The commentary concludes: "Instead of speaking of guilt, the critics say war crimes trials would promote national reconciliation and establish a basis for international punishment for gross human rights abusers. But it would take a full military campaign against the Serbs and a long occupation to get them to submit to Nuremberg rules. That in turn means more fighting, destruction and alienation of the Serbs from the concept of a Bosnian nation."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The war crimes tribunal faces gridlock and the prospect of going nowhere

In a news analysis in today's paper, Ray Moseley writes: "Former South African Judge Richard Goldstone, who is bowing out as prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, indicated he is fed up with Western inaction. In civil society, he argued, no government would claim that a serial killer or rapist should be allowed to remain free because it would be dangerous to the police to try to arrest him." Moseley continues: "Goldstone raised the question of whether there is any point in keeping the Tribunal going in the absence of arrests that would make its work meaningful. The answer seems to be that Western governments politically could not be seen to shut down the Tribunal, but neither do they have the political will to give it their full support. So the Tribunal has something in common with the new institutions coming out of the Bosnian election: It faces gridlock, and the prospect of going nowhere."

LONDON GUARDIAN: Germany is preparing to expel thousands of Bosnian Muslims

In an analysis in today's paper, Ian Traynor writes from Bonn: "Germany is preparing to expel many thousands of Bosnian Muslim, the victims of (Bosnian) Serb ethnic cleansing, in the full knowledge that they will not be able to return to the homes they fled. Days after Bosnia's post-war election, the German government announced a program to expel some of the 325,000 refugees from the Bosnian war." Traynor says: "Germany has accommodated more Bosnians than the rest of Europe combined, at an estimated cost of ($10 billion). Leading officials constantly invoke the spirit of hard work that rebuilt Germany from the ruins of the second World War, enjoining the Bosnians to go home and do the same. The Bonn office of the United Nations High commissioner for refugees called for a process of voluntary repatriation and denounced the government decision. Germany, fearful of the publicity, is not expected to start forcibly deporting tens of thousands of Bosnians immediately. But the decision, coming hot on the heels of the elections which the West was keen to see staged, is a clear signal of impatience."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Opposition parties are at least getting noticed

Mark M. Nelson writes today in a news analysis: "As counting continues in this country's first post-war election, opposition parties may not be winning, but they are at least getting noticed. And in a place where six months ago opposition politics was enough to get you arrested or shot, that's progress." Nelson says: "The success of the opposition candidates is important not just because of the seats they will occupy in the assemblies, but also because of the effect they could have on the national political landscape."

The writer adds: "The opposition parties also can play a role in pointing out the failures of the new government, setting themselves up to take a larger share of power at the next elections two years from now. Because the opposition parties have the biggest stash of business and economic experts, the country's devastated economy will likely become a key issue for them. They also see themselves as allies of the U.S. and European governments that are trying to convince Bosnians to concentrate on economic reform."