Squabbles, Ambitions Threaten
Bulwark Against Serb Expansion
(SARAJEVO, March 29Reuters) Politicians from both parts of Bosnia's troubled Muslim-Croat Federation were meeting in Sarajevo on Friday as international efforts to rescue the fragile alliance intensified. The meeting in the office of the High Representative for Bosnia, Carl Bildt, was described as potentially significant by Colum Murphy, spokesman for the former Swedish prime minister implementing the civilian aspects of Bosnia's peace deal. "Its rather important.
We are discussing implementation of all previously agreed agreements. We have been saying we don't need more agreements but implementation of what has been agreed. We think something will come out of it," said Murphy. The meeting in Sarajevo brought together Bosnia's acting president Ejup Ganic, prime minister Hasan Muratovic and the President of the Federation, Kresimir Zubak, a Bosnian Croat.
NATO's Solana Intervenes
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said on Friday he had asked the leaders of Croatia and Bosnia to do their utmost to keep their fledgling federation alive as a key element of peace efforts in former Yugoslavia. "It is true that there is concern. I spoke with the presidents of Croatia and Bosnia a few hours ago to ask them to prevent the federation from breaking up," Solana said on Spanish state television.
Western envoys still hope coercive diplomacy, economic rewards and the lack of an alternative will rescue it. Solana described it on Friday as "one of the basic elements" in peace efforts in former Yugoslavia. "If this element breaks, it will be difficult to reach that definitive peace we're seeking," he added.
Ethnic Ambition to Blame
The Federation, forged in 1994 out of necessity to confront Bosnian Serb might, has unravelled amid recrimination and disputes over organizational details since Bosnia's 3½-year conflict ended in November.
Despite Western coaxing, efforts to put real life into the Federationgiving it a proper army, customs system and governmenthave foundered, endangering the entire Dayton accord that brought peace back to devastated Bosnia. Cooperative efforts have foundered amid mutual distrust and the competing ambitions of the two ethnic groups.
Federation at 'Crisis Point'
Diplomats say the Federation is at a crisis point, where it must either go forward or begin to collapse. "We are wondering where we stand," said Murphy. "Sometimes we see one step forward and two steps back and sometimes we see the opposite. Its assessment time again." The spokesman said that on Thursday Michael Steiner, Bildt's deputy, met Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, the powerful patron of the Bosnian Croats, whom diplomats suspect still wants a seperate mini-state in south-west Bosnia. Murphy said it appeared pressure by Tudjman had helped in recent negotations in Mostar, the divided city claimed by separatist Bosnian Croats as their capital, and in the successful creation of local governments in central Bosnia.
A further top-level meeting on Saturday in Serb-held Banja Luka bringing together Muslim, Croat and Serb leaders and a visit by Bildt to Washington next week will continue the crisis management of the Federation problem, said Murphy.
Muslim-Croat Federation Celebrates Anniversary with Spat
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