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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Powell Arrives In Sarajevo

Sarajevo, 13 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has arrived in Sarajevo, the last stop on his Balkan tour. International officials greeted Powell at Sarajevo airport today as he arrived from Skopje. He is to meet with Wolfgang Petritsch, the high representative in Bosnia, and U.S. General Michael Dodson, commander of NATO-led peacekeepers. Petritsch is confronting Croat nationalist parties' demands for Croat self-rule within Bosnia. The United States has been constant in its support for Petritsch in opposing the nationalists.

Powell also is to meet with members of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, representatives of the Muslim-Croat entity's government, and the prime minister of Bosnia's Serb-run half, Mladen Ivanic.

In Kosovo yesterday, Powell told the Balkan countries' foreign ministers that Washington will remain politically and economically engaged in the region and will provide military assistance when appropriate.

President George W. Bush had suggested the U.S. might leave the task of stabilizing the Balkans to European allies.

Powell said Kosovo leaders should concentrate on general elections and not try to win independence from Serbia immediately, saying it might be a source of "new instability."

Moderate Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova disavowed any links to those responsible for the violence. Rugova said his immediate goal is to hold national elections in Kosovo.

Hashim Thaci, a former Kosovo Liberation Army leader, also attended the meeting among other officials from the region.

Powell also said Macedonian forces had acted with restraint in putting down a rebellion by ethnic Albanian fighters last month.

Powell earlier met Macedonian President Boris Trajkovksi and urged him to expand the dialogue with ethnic Albanians, who make between 25 percent and one-third of Macedonia's population.

Powell cautioned that continued violence in the region by ethnic Albanians was eroding international support.

Powell today cancelled a planned visit to Kosovo's regional capital Pristina, citing bad weather. This evening Powell is scheduled to leave Bosnia for Washington, ending his first Balkan tour as secretary of state.