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Western Press Review: The Morass In Bosnia

Prague, 15 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The international community sinks deeper into the Bosnian bog: Muslims mob U.S. troops. The German military prepares to move. The Clinton Administration evidently extends its commitment. Diplomats confer in Paris. The peace wobbles. The Western press observes.

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Bosnia's year-long peace may be threatened

From Sarajevo today, Julius Strauss says in an analysis: "NATO-led peacekeepers carried out dawn raids on Bosnian Serb and Muslim bases yesterday after three days of unrest that has left two Muslims dead and dozens wounded."

He writes: "The operation came amid increasing fears that Bosnia's year-long peace may be threatened as Muslim refugees force their way into Serb-held territory to try to return to their homes."

NEW YORK TIMES: Muslims have become increasingly aggressive

Mike O'Connor writes in a news analysis from Brnjik, Bosnia-Herzegovina today: "American soldiers were attacked (yesterday) by rioting civilians, presumably Muslims, after the soldiers raided a Bosnian army camp and confiscated several tons of weapons and ammunition. The Americans were punched and hit with bottles, according to their commander, Colonel Mike Thompson, though there were no serious injuries."

O'Connor says: "For their part, Muslims have become increasingly aggressive, and this week's fighting has been the most violent since the war ended. Both the raid and the violent reaction to it were further signs that the peace in Bosnia, held together so far by persuasion, promises of aid, and threats, may be beginning to shred."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The violence dramatizes the need for peacekeepers

In the paper today, Tracy Wilkinson says in an analysis: "U.S. troops caught between battling factions of Bosnian Muslims and Serbs (yesterday) seized tons of weapons from the Bosnian army and clashed with rioting Muslim mobs. It was the latest escalation in a tense confrontation between Muslim refugees trying to regain homes -- and illegally using weapons to do so -- and Bosnian Serbs determined to block them.

"Increasingly, U.S. forces are being drawn into the fray and seeming to serve as a last barrier to renewed warfare. The violence -- some of the worst since warfare stopped nearly a year ago -- dramatizes both the need for a continued presence of international peacekeepers in the still-explosive Bosnia-Herzegovina and the dangers that such a mission faces."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: The U.S. will provide one-third of the follow-on NATO force

In an analysis from Paris today, Mary Dejevsky writes: "The Uniterd States confirmed yesterday that it would provide up to one-third of a follow-on NATO force in Bosnia. The decision, which has been expected, sets the seal on a new force of some kind for Bosnia for the coming year. It came as the nations involved in Bosnia met in Paris to examine other aspects of the former Yugoslavia."

She says: "The decision will create some continuity in Bosnia, underlined by the conference in Paris. It agreed that the authority and powers of Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative to Bosnia, are to be increased and the post will be maintained for a further two years to oversee the transition to civilian government and a durable peace in Bosnia."

FINANCIAL TIMES: The co-presidents failed to agree on a new joint government

From Paris, Laura Silber writes today in an analysis in the British newspaper: "Western foreign ministers warned Bosnia's three co-presidents yesterday that they would face punitive measures unless they complied fully with the Dayton peace agreement."

She writes: "At the three-hour meeting, Mr. Alija Isetbegovic, the Moslem chairman of the Bosnian presidency, and his Serbian and Croatian counterparts, Mr. Momcilo Krajisnik and Mr. Kresimir Zubak, endorsed a 13-point action plan to bolster peace."

And Silber continues: "Despite intensive efforts by U.S. mediators, the co-presidents failed, however, to agree on the composition of a new joint government following September's elections."

WASHINGTON POST: The enmity goes on . . .

Ann Swardson says in an analysis today: "Facing a threatened withdrawal of international aid, Bosnia's three presidents, along with the major Western powers, reaffirmed (yesterday) the commitments they made in the Dayton peace agreement 11 months ago. But there was little new leverage for Dayton's international overseers to apply pressure on the Serb, Croat and Muslim factions that are increasingly initiating violence in Bosnia while failing to meet the deadlines established for turning a former war zone into a nation."

She writes: "Creators of the Dayton accord hoped that if the right political and economic structures were put into place, the three feuding factions could bury their rivalries. However, as officials here said (yesterday), the structures are not yet in place and the enmity goes on."

ATLANTA CONSTITUTION: Millions live on the brink of social chaos

Bob Deans comments today: "The crises aren't new, and they don't much threaten vital U.S. interests. But thousands of American soldiers are again on the march to head off a humanitarian apocalypse in Zaire and, apparently, to prevent the fragile U.S.-brokered peace in Bosnia from shattering into war. Why are they going?

He writes: "First is the hard reality that from the bombed-out ruins of Grozny to the killing fields of Rwanda, hundreds of millions of people live on the explosive brink of social chaos."

Deans says: "Second is a world media that can put images of starving children in Goma, the carnage of a marketplace shelling in Sarajevo or the hardscrabble impoverishment of Haiti on every television screen and newspaper page in America, lending riveting relevance to events far from home."

And says: "Third is the unique position the United States finds itself in as the lone superpower in the post-Cold War world."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Clinton is consumed with foreign policy

William Neikirk analyzes the same circumstances today. He says: "As he prepares to leave (today) on a key 11-day trip to Asia, President Clinton finds himself consumed with foreign policy challenges in Zaire and Bosnia, only 10 days after concluding a campaign that focused on domestic policy. As this post-election action whirls around him, Clinton is still struggling to assemble a new foreign policy team, including a secretary of state to replace Warren Christopher and a secretary of defense to succeed William Perry."

Neikirk writes: "Clinton's critics say a host of problems put on the back burner during the campaign now are re-emerging. Zaire conjures up memories of the Somalia disaster that hurt Clinton during his first year in office. He also is preparing to extend the U.S. stay in Bosnia, prompting critics to say he evaded telling the American people what he intended all along."