Differences over Flag, Stamps, Telephone Rates
Scuttle Meeting, NATO Concerned over Survival
(From Wire Service ReportsMarch 28) Bosnian Croat and Muslim officials abruptly canceled a meeting scheduled for Thursday, the second anniversary of their federation, because of differences between the two sides. The meeting was called to shore up the partnership between the two nominal allies in the Bosnian conflict. The talks were expected to focus on ways to speed up the return of refugees to their homes and the creation of joint Muslim-Croat government and military bodies.
The federation was conceived by the United States as a counterweight to the better-armed Bosnian Serbs and to end the fighting between Muslims and Croats in Bosnia. Distrust between the two sides has kept the federation from functioning effectively, despite prodding from the United States and Germany. "The two federation partners were not able to narrow the differences between them in preparatory talks in recent days," the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. It said more "intensive talks" were necessary.
"The participants must want peace. It cannot be forced (upon them), not even by the 60,000 IFOR soldiers," the statement said, referring to the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia. Meanwhile, Bosniaís former prime minister, Haris Silajdzic, said the Muslim-Croat partnership was all but dead. "The federation exists only on paper," Silajdzic was quoted as telling the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. "Two years after the signing of the Washington agreement, it is clear that those who are in this federation donít really want it," he said.
NATO: Federation Fragile Key to Bosnia's Future
NATO's military commander said Wednesday the alliance was worried about the survival of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation, which he called a very fragile key to the future of Bosnia. "We are very concerned about the federation," U.S. Army Gen. George Joulwan said. He called for international pressure on Bosnian and Croatian leaders to maintain the alliance to counter Bosnian Serb forces. Joulwan, head of NATO forces in Europe, met reporters to discuss the international peacekeeping effort by 60,000 troops in Bosnia. He was asked about reports the Bosnian-Croat alliance was crumbling four months after a Bosnia peace was reached in Dayton, Ohio.
"It (the federation) has always been very fragile. That has been a constant concern at every meeting I've been to, particularly from Rome, to Geneva, to Moscow," he said. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the two former warring factions of the federation had so far failed to agree on a flag, stamps, schooling, electricity use, telephone rates, customs levies and a host of other issues. "That entity is very important for the long-term durability of Bosnia-Herzegovina," Joulwan stressed. "And I would hope that political pressure would be put to bear and to assist and to help to assure that the federation continues to operate."
No Large-Scale Infrastructure
Work Seen by NATO
He said peacekeeping troops had recently destroyed some bunkers and illegal "checkpoints" set up in ethnic enclaves in Bosnia to hinder the free flow of traffic and collect bribes. But he stressed that U.S., Russian and other international peacekeeping forces in Bosnia would not take a major part in civilian-led efforts to rebuild the country's infrastructure before they leave late this year. Joulwan said such tasks as clearing landmines, rebuilding schools and protecting war crimes investigators would be handled by troops only on a "case-by-case" basis as their military duties permitted. "At this point, we are not going to get in that kind of work on a large-scale basis," he said.
He said the next month would be a key to the peacekeeping effort as Muslim, Croat and Serb forces placed their weapons in storage areas under the supervision of peacekeeping troops, who would watch over them to make sure hostilities did not break out. "This takes an enormous amount of troops to do it and to maintain it," he said. Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told senators the Washington Post story was correct but said he remained hopeful the Muslim-Croat federation would survive.
"This article portrays a snapshot in time,'' he told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I'm hopeful for the future." Hughes said his own concern was that unless the civilian-led effort to build a civil structure to keep order and guide the economy begins to succeed, peace will collapse in Bosnia after NATO peacekeepers leave. "If there is not some greater attention paid to the development of a civil infrastructure in Bosnia, the work that's been done to separate the warring parties and to contain conflict and reduce violence will probably not be sustainable for very long," he said.
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