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Balkan Report: July 29, 1998

29 July 1998, Volume 2, Number 30

Jacques Klein Talks to RFE/RL. U.S. General Jacques Klein made his name in the Balkans between 1996 and 1997 as chief administrator of eastern Slavonia, which journalists dubbed The Kingdom of Klein. Now a deputy to the international community's Carlos Westendorp in Bosnia, Klein spoke to RFE/RL's South Slavic Service last week about Bosnia and its future.

The general stressed that, while "we are not naive" about the chances of rebuilding the society that existed before the war, the fact remains that most Bosnians are not militant nationalists. He said that some 30-35 percent of the population are of mixed ancestry or part of a mixed marriage, and that as many as an additional 45 percent "have no idea what happened" to destroy Bosnia and bring on a vicious internecine war. Klein noted that those who want a divided society constitute only some "8 to 12 percent" and that they also tend to be people who personally profited from the war.

Klein argued that a key issue is the return of refugees to their former homes. He noted that the major obstruction to this is the presence in positions of power of many of the very persons responsible for the war and for ethnic cleansing. The general stressed that the international community is in a strong position to do something about such obstructionist policies by granting or withholding aid. Klein defended the international community's giving aid to the Republika Srpska of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik -- even though Dodik has not been very forthcoming on refugee return -- by saying that the Republika Srpska must first have a functioning economy and infrastructure for the refugees to come home to. As to ordinary Bosnians themselves, Klein said that "nobody wants to live in someone else's house" and that people will go home once they know that safety, a job, and basic infrastructure await them there. The general nonetheless does not expect much progress on refugee return until after September's general elections, because politicians on all sides will be playing to the galleries in the meantime.

He noted two other big problems. First, Bosnia's main dilemma is that it is trying to emerge from the legacy of over 45 years of communism and overcome the destruction of a terrible war, all at the same time. Second, he warned that if Kosova does not get autonomy and the polarization there continues, the entire peace process in Bosnia could become derailed.

U.S. Drops Plans to Catch Karadzic, Mladic? "The New York Times" wrote on July 26 that "after spending more than two years and tens of millions of dollars preparing missions, training commandos, and gathering intelligence, the U.S. has dropped its secret plans to arrest Bosnia's two most wanted men accused of war crimes, senior administration officials say." The daily added that the administration has shelved plans -- code-named Amber Star -- to capture Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic because of French opposition and out of fears of causing "a blood bath" and provoking fresh Serbian aggression.

Some observers noted, however, that the myth of Serbian invincibility was shattered by the Croatian-Muslim offensive of 1995, and that a more plausible reason for Washington's decision might be so as not to create political difficulties for the current Bosnian Serb leadership, which Washington supports. Other students of the U.S. scene told the BBC that Bosnia is no longer important to much of American public opinion and hence not worth political risks inherent in staging such a potentially dangerous mission.

Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton peace plan, has repeatedly stressed the importance of bringing all war criminals to justice if a lasting peace is to take root in Bosnia. A central principle of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is that of the post-World War II Nuremberg court, namely that individuals must be brought to justice if entire peoples are to be spared charges of collective guilt.

Arbour Warns Bosnian Serbian Authorities. Louise Arbour, who is the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said in The Hague on July 24 that the Bosnian Serb authorities are not only avoiding their obligations under the Dayton agreement to help bring indicted war criminals to justice, but they have "also been engaged in deliberately frustrating the tribunal's work by issuing false identification papers to those persons indicted by the tribunal in an attempt to shield them from the tribunal's jurisdiction." She was referring to an incident the previous week, in which British SAS commandos captured two indicted war criminals and sent them to The Hague, only to find out soon afterward that they had arrested the wrong Bosnian Serb twins (see "RFE./RL Newsline," July 24, 1998). PM

Right, Left Blast Serbian Independent Media. According to Serbian Radical Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj on July 23: "You should be ashamed. All you journalists working in the outlets [which] you know for sure get money from abroad should be aware that you are working for Serbia's enemies and against Yugoslavia, [that] you are working for foreign intelligence services. One who is paid by the U.S. or British government is an American or British agent, acting against his country as a traitor to his people."

And in the words of a resolution of the United Yugoslav Left (JUL), drafted by its leader Mira Markovic, aka the wife of Slobodan Milosevic: "News media have contributed greatly to the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. Some of these [media] are supported from abroad financially, politically and in staff, and have had a direct role in the misfortune that has befallen our part of the world. With the aim of bringing the survival, integrity and stability of even [Milosevic's] Yugoslavia into question, innumerable newspapers and several television stations are yet again supported and editorially managed from abroad."