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Balkan Report: October 1, 1997

1 October 1997, Volume 1, Number 10

NATO Considers Extending Mission... NATO defense ministers meet in Maastricht on October 1 to discuss extending the mandate of the NATO-backed Stabilization Forces in Bosnia beyond June 1998. Suggestions last week by U.S. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger that the alliance might be ready to take that step have sparked a lively debate in the United States, with some in the U.S. Congress calling for a cut-off of funds to force the withdrawal of American forces by that date. Because the European NATO members have indicated that they will not remain if the U.S. pulls its troops out, that would effectively end the NATO mission there, something many believe would destroy the Dayton Accords and lead to a new round of fighting.

...While Elections in Bosnian Serb Entity Delayed. In the midst of this diplomatic maneuvering, leaders of the Bosnian Serb entity agreed to delay parliamentary elections called for this fall by Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic but previously rejected by hardliners in Pale. On September 24, Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, her hard-line opponent, met in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and agreed to hold parliamentary elections on November 15 under the supervision of the OSCE. Plavsic and Krajisnik also agreed to hold presidential elections on December 7 for Plavsic's post and for Krajisnik's seat in the all-Bosnian tripartite presidency. In addition, they agreed to henceforth divide air time on state television with one side airing its views one day, and the other side the next day. Three days later, Plavsic unilaterally announced that the parliamentary elections would be postponed eight more days due to what she called technical reasons.

The latest postponement prompted criticism from Pale. Meanwhile, Kresimir Zubak, the Bosnian Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, complained to the international community on September 25. He argued that elections within the republic could be organized only by all-Bosnian agencies, not on the basis of an agreement between officials in one of the two entities.

In other developments, an explosion on September 27 destroyed the offices of "Alternativa," the only opposition newspaper in the Bosnian Serb town of Doboj. This was the second attack on the paper in recent weeks. Also on the 27th, Bosnian Serb Premier Gojko Klickovic said on Montenegrin television that arresting Radovan Karadzic, who has been accused of war crimes, "would lead to a complete collapse of the Dayton Agreement" and a broader conflict.

The Role of RFE/RL Broadcasts This Week. Through all this, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service continued to provide extensive coverage of the issues. On September 25, it carried a two-hour program on the upcoming elections, including a detailed discussion of just what is at stake. On September 26, it featured an interview with James Hooper of the Washington-based Balkan Institute. And on September 28, the service carried information on human rights violations in Bosnia.