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Bosnia: OSCE Envoy Says NATO Presence Should Remain Indefinitely

Crans-Montana, Switzerland; 30 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The top official of the OSCE in Bosnia, Robert Frowick, says NATO troops and civilian organizations helping to create democratic institutions should remain for the indefinite future.

Frowick told reporters at an international conference in the Swiss mountain resort of Crans-Montana Saturday that he anticipated that the OSCE might remain in Bosnia for "many years." He also said he believed NATO should extend its military presence beyond June next year when it is scheduled to withdraw.

Frowick, a former U.S. diplomat, organized six elections in Bosnia last year and is now preparing the municipal elections to be held in September.

He described the situation in Bosnia as "potentially explosive" and said the international community should be prepared to "remain for years to help stabilize the situation." He said democratic institutions remained fragile and the danger of a renewed attack by Bosnian Serb forces could not be underestimated.

Frowick declined to estimate how large a NATO force would be needed to maintain the peace in Bosnia but he said it should be able to mount a flexible response to whatever threat arose. He said it should be made clear that ground forces would be backed up by air power if necessary and also by warships firing cruise missiles at ground targets.

The present stabilization force in Bosnia consists of 35,000 troops, including U.S. and European forces. It replaced a previous NATO-led force of about 60,000 troops.

Earlier, in an address to about 600 people at the international conference, Frowick called for those responsible for war crimes to be arrested and put on trial at the international tribunal in the Hague.

He said the peacekeeping effort would not be complete until this happened. Frowick gave the conference a detailed report of the problems in organizing the municipal elections in September and the strict controls his officials were trying to enforce to ensure that the elections are as fair as possible.

He said he had ordered the closure of some voter-registration offices because of illegalities and said some people had been barred from standing for election. Frowick noted that today is the last day for voter registration in all centers except the contested town of Brcko.