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Balkan Report: August 6, 1997

6 August 1997, Volume 1, Number 2

"Ethnic Recleansing." Several hundred Bosnian Muslim refugees, who only had recently returned to their homes around Jajce, were again driven out. But this round of ethnic cleansing was carried out by local Croats, the nominal partners of the Muslims in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, rather than by the Serbs who had first driven these Muslims from their homes in 1992. Local Croat police participated in this mob action, which left at least one Muslim dead and numerous homes burned out. The international police reported that the situation at Jajce quickly quieted down but only because all the Muslims had fled.

In other developments, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook charged on July 27 that some senior Bosnian government officials were siphoning off large amounts of international aid money for their personal use. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic responded by establishing an international committee to investigate these charges. But he warned that any foreigner spreading false reports about corruption would be asked to leave the country.

And on August 4, the international community's new chief representative in Bosnia, Carlos Westendorp, called for a boycott of Bosnian diplomats to protest the failure of the three sides in Bosnia to agree on new ambassadorial appointments. At least seven countries, including the U.S., have now frozen their contacts with Bosnian diplomats.

Local Media Reaction. The local media reacted in a highly predictable way in each case. Responding to events in Jajce, the Sarajevo papers of the Federation featured headlines such as "murder, torchings, blockade." And the August 5 Oslobodjenje charged that the events there represented a "crisis in the institutions." But Croatian papers stressed that existing programs to allow refugees to return home favored Muslims and argued that all future efforts in this direction must provide equal protections for all groups.

The Sarajevo daily press did not dismiss Cook's charges outright, but journalists close to Izetbegovic stressed that the burden of proof in such cases lies with the accusers. Most local media attention was devoted to the upcoming local election campaign and to the possibility that NATO might jam Bosnian Serb television during that period, as some Western officials have recommended.

RFE/RL's Continuing Role. Spokesmen for international agencies in Sarajevo turned to RFE/RL on August 4 to signal their concern about developments in Jajce. The UN's International Police Task Force representative stressed that his organization is paying particular attention to the role of the local Croat police in the unrest. And the UNHCR spokesman stressed that "some leaders are making a mistake" if they think they can implement only those parts of the Dayton accords that they like.

On the issue of corruption, Zlatko Lagumdzija, a prominent opposition politician, told RFE/RL this week that those interested in fighting corruption should focus less on individual cases of wrongdoing than on the inherently corrupt nature of the current system itself. Lagumdzija charged that "soft money" from outside Bosnia currently props up all three ruling elites: Croatia funds the Croat extremists, Islamic countries pay Muslim politicians, and Serbia keeps the Bosnian Serbs' Republika Srpska afloat.