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Bosnia: West Increases Pressure To Speed Peace

Prague, 29 July 1997 ( RFE/RL) -- London's top diplomat is in Sarajevo today to press Bosnia's leaders to show progress in implementing the terms of their one and-a-half year old peace agreement.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who arrived in Bosnia for a three-day visit yesterday, has said he wants "frank exchanges" with all three members of Bosnia's rotating presidency on subjects ranging from war criminals to refugees and official corruption. In diplomatic language, that is a blunt warning that London is unhappy with the way the peace process is going in Bosnia and is demanding improvements.

Cook's tough line reflects growing international impatience with Bosnia's leaders that has become increasingly public in the last ten days.

German Foreign Miniser Klaus Kinkel, who visited Sarajevo last week, said Sunday said that all parties in Bosnia must do more to deliver war criminals to justice and to speed the return of refugees to their homes.

These warnings follow a similar message from last week's donor conference on Bosnia in Brussels. The conference linked its concern over the sluggish pace of reconciliation in Bosnia with a statement that reconstruction aid will "only be given to those who adhere to the peace process and apply it."

There is mounting Western concern that time is running out for peacemaking in Bosnia while the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) remains in the country. The mandate for the 30,000-strong peace force is due to end mid-next year.

At the very top of Western concern are the issues of war criminals and refugees. These are the two problems international peace negotiators intended for the former warring parties to solve themselves but, so far, those hopes have been disappointed.

London's impatience with the Bosnian Serb entity's total non-cooperation on extraditing war criminals led to a British raid on two indicted war suspects earlier this month in Prijedor. The British SFOR troops seized one suspect and killed a second in a shootout as he resisted arrest.

The raid sent a message to Bosnia's war criminals that their days of impunity could be numbered, but so far it appears to have been ignored. Instead, hardliners in the Serb entity have responded with a series of low-level counterattacks against international targets, wounding at least three U.S. and Dutch soldiers in explosions.

Most Western leaders have expressed support for the British swoop on war criminals. Duncan Bullivant, spokesman for the international High Representative to Bosnia, told reporters yesterday that Western powers meeting in Brussels stood "full square behind further operations" and that physical arrests "are now the only real option" for getting war criminals out of Bosnia.

The West's desire to see war criminals extradited is linked to its goal of seeing refugees repatriated to their original homes across Bosnia. Western officials believe that indicted war criminals responsible for expulsion and murder of civilians must be removed from positions of influence and punished if refugees are to feel safe enough to return home.

Kinkel ended his recent trip to Bosnia reiterating to journalists that former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic is still isolating the Serb part of Bosnia and "must he handed over to The Hague."

As Bosnia's leaders seem either unable or unwilling to rid the country of war criminals and return refugees home, there are signs that the slow progress in implementing the peace accords could sap international enthusiasm for contributing aid money to the country.

Last week's donors' conference in Brussels raised pledges of some $1.1 billion dollars in aid for 1997. That amount fell some $300 million short of the $1.4 billion the conference's organizers had hoped for.