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Balkan Report: August 13, 1997

13 August 1997, Volume 1, Number 3

Holbrooke Mission to the Former Yugoslavia. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke tried to breathe fresh life into the Dayton agreement on a visit to Croatia, Bosnia, and federal Yugoslavia August 6-9 . The most important leg of his trip was the last, namely his talks in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and with Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency.

Holbrooke told his Serbian hosts time and again that Radovan Karadzic and other indicted war criminals must be arrested and sent to The Hague. But the Serbs would only pledge that Karadzic will stay out of politics, something Karadzic himself promised last summer.

Before going to Belgrade, Holbrooke met with Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme military commander in Tuzla. There were no official reports on their discussions, but by going to Tuzla, Holbrooke was sending a clear signal to Belgrade and Pale that Washington has more than diplomatic options when it comes to bringing accused war criminals to justice.

It was at Holbrooke's first stop, however, that brought what State Department spokesmen called a success. In Split on August 6, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and his Bosnian counterpart Alija Izetbegovic agreed on concrete measures to strengthen the Bosnian federation, including recognition of the right of Muslim refugees to return to their homes near Croat-held Jajce.

Some Bosnian politicians expressed concern that Holbrooke had succeeded only in obtaining paper pledges from lying local leaders who have made and broken the same promises many times before.

RFE/RL's Role in Bridging Bosnia's Ethnic Divide. Beginning August 8, RFE/RL added a half-hour daily program devoted to election issues in Bosnia for the period August through October. This additional time doubles the amount of in-depth Bosnian programming broadcast by RFE/RL's South Slavic Language Service.

RFE/RL's broadcasts to Bosnia provide an opportunity for non-nationalist political leaders to break through the nationalists' near monopoly on regional electronic media. On August 6, for example, several such leaders told RFE/RL listeners that the nationalists on all three sides are manipulating the return of refugees to their homes in order to increase ethnic polarization in advance of the September 14 local elections.

The speakers all agreed that the nationalists are using the election campaign as an opportunity to spread their messages of hatred and intolerance. Each nationalist party fosters a circle-the-wagons mentality and, in effect, continues the war by political means. One speaker argued that only pressure from the outside will end the cycle of violence motivated by ethnic hatred.