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Balkan Report: November 12, 1997

12 November 1997, Volume 1, Number 16

To Stay or Not to Stay? U.S. President Bill Clinton launched discussions on Bosnia and other key foreign policy issues with congressional leaders on November 4. At issue is whether to keep an armed U.S. presence in Bosnia after SFOR's mandate runs out in June 1998. NATO allies say they will remain in Bosnia if Washington does, but will leave if the Americans go.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on November 5 that "a consensus is developing that there will be or should be some form of U.S. military presence," but Secretary of Defense William Cohen was more cautious.

Meanwhile in Strasbourg, Gen. Jacques Klein, the international community's number-two man in Bosnia, made it clear on November 5 that the alternative to staying on is a return to war: "This country is like a patient getting a transfusion. If we take away the medical assistance, the patient will die."

Then in a landmark public statement on November 8 in Berlin, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana suggested that the international community should consider maintaining a permanent police presence in Bosnia.

An Editor Resigns in Mostar. Meanwhile in Herzegovina's main city, Mostar TV's Editor-in-Chief Milan Sutalo resigned on November 9 rather than follow a directive from the OSCE to apologize on the air for his station's endorsement of ethnic hatred between Mostar's Croatian and Muslim communities. On October 29, the station had taken the position that anyone who openly admitted to spreading ethnic hatred would be liable to be tried in The Hague for war crimes.

President Plavsic Talks Politics with RFE/RL. In Banja Luka, President Biljana Plavsic of the Republika Srpska told RFE/RL on November 7 that she will go ahead with plans to form an alliance with President-elect Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro and Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic. She says they all want to promote democracy among Serbs everywhere and to end the international isolation of the Serbs. Some Serbs pointed out, however, that all three politicians have a history of shifting their allegiances and that their new alliance may be short-lived.

Plavsic, in fact, was conciliatory toward her former allies -- and now rivals -- Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency. Plavsic told RFE/RL that it is necessary to work with Milosevic because he is a freely elected leader. As to Krajisnik, she urged him to act "responsibly" and to recognize that there is much in the Dayton agreements of benefit to the Serbs.