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Balkan Report: September 24, 1997

24 September 1997, Volume 1, Number 9

Elections Behind, Elections Ahead. Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who supervised the local elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina on September 13-14 announced on September 22 that the final results would not be published until September 26. This second delay in the publication of results has increased tensions across the region.

Further exacerbating ethnic tensions was the outcome of the elections in Yugoslavia on September 21. There, supporters of President Slobodan Milosevich appeared to be the big winners, an outcome that may encourage Bosnian Serb radicals.

But there was one bright spot on this electoral calendar. On September 22, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov told U.S. President Bill Clinton that Moscow would not try to block the Bosnian parliamentary election in October that Biljana Plavsic, the president of the Bosnian Serb entity, has called to undercut the power of her chief opponent, Radovan Karadzic, who has been indicted for war crimes.

Unfortunately, elections were not the only thing taking place in this region. On September 22, NATO deployed troops in northern Bosnia following the shooting of a Bosnian Serb police officer by a rival group of policemen. And on the same day, the remains of one of the five Americans who perished in the September 17 helicopter crash was flown home; the remains of the other bodies have not yet been identified.

Demonizing NATO Forces. Media outlets in Bosnia continue to portray NATO forces in an extremely negative light. One local television station even carried a film clip with images of Nazi forces superimposed over NATO ones.

In response, United Nations officials have begun negotiations with Bosnian Serbs in an effort to improve the situation. And NATO officials have threatened to use specially-equipped planes to jam such broadcasts. A U.S. Pentagon spokesman said that these broadcasts were now inciting some Bosnian Serbs to violence against NATO troops.

RFE/RL Election Broadcasts. Over the past week, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service worked to calm the situation concerning both the elections and the presence of NATO forces. Every day last week and this, RFE/RL carried special programs on the elections. On September 16, RFE/RL featured a program on why parties that pursued narrowly ethnic goals had lost in some key cities. And on September 21, it carried programming on corruption in all three parts of Bosnia.