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Bosnia: NATO Alarmed About Political Crisis

Madrid, 8 July 1997 (RFE/RL) -- NATO leaders meeting in Madrid today expressed concern at what they called an increasingly anti-democratic climate in the Serb half of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They also called for an immediate end to the political crisis there.

The comments came in a special declaration from leaders of the 16 NATO-member states. It harshly criticized the Bosnian Serbs for threatening security in the Balkan region and for obstructing progress on implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords.

They particularly criticized abuses of authority and acts of intimidation by the Bosnian Serb police, who operate under the behind-the-scenes influence of accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic. The elected Bosnian Serb president, Biljana Plavsic is now engaged in a power struggle with the Bosnian Serb parliament, which is loyal to Karadzic.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana later told a news conference that the NATO leaders have made it clear to all Bosnian leaders -- Serb, Croat and Bosnian -- that there can be no return to military operations "now or in the future."

However, Solana refused to specify exactly what threat the alliance has held over the heads of the three members of the collective Bosnian Presidency. He said he hopes the three former warring parties in Bosnia avoid a new war and that NATO never, never has to demonstrate what the consequences are of flouting the international community.

The statement also warns that parties which do not live up to the commitments they made in the Dayton Accords will be denied any hope of taking up full membership in the wider community of nations. Specifically, it says all suspected war criminals, including Karadzic and the former Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, must be handed over to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

NATO leads a multi-national stabilization force in Bosnia, but has no mandate to seek out and capture wanted war criminals.

A British official at the summit told journalists that the statement reflects the growing sense of impatience and frustration on the part of the international community with the Bosnian Serbs.