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Presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia Holbrooke: We Have Averted a Crisis
"I Feel We've Given it Our Best Shot,"
Envoy Says of Weekend Summit in Rome

Rome: The Bosnia Summit (ROME, Feb 18) — The United States said on Sunday a crisis threatening the landmark Dayton peace accord had been averted after the presidents of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia reached crucial agreements at an emergency summit in Rome. "In Rome we have avoided a crisis by smoothing out and indeed perhaps eliminating those bumps in the road (to peace)," U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke told a news conference at the completion of the two-day event.

"I feel we've given it our best shot,'' Holbrooke said. "We've made things a lot better but I'm not going to be satisfied until a year from now we see if it works or not."

Summit table in RomeThe agreements, laid out in three separate texts, covered moves towards suspending U.N. sanctions on the Bosnian Serbs, the unification of Sarajevo and the divided Muslim-Croat town of Mostar, war crimes and prisoners of war. The leaders agreed to restore all contacts between Bosnian factions and the NATO-led peace Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia, mediators said.

Highlights of the Rome Summit

    "The three sides have agreed that all the contacts, military and civilian, that have broken down in recent days will be resumed on schedule," Holbrooke said. USS George Washington"Nothing was given in exchange for this. They're simply returning on their own." The first of the scheduled meetings will take place on Monday on the USS George Washington aircraft carrier in the Adriatic.

    Holbrooke said the leaders agreed ``precise modalities'' to cooperate with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He gave no details but it appeared suspected war criminals would be arrested only if already indicted by the tribunal.

    The Americans made it perfectly clear to Serbia's Milosevic that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and army chief Ratko Mladic, both indicted for war crimes, would be dealt with by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague sooner or later. "Don't worry, we'll get them," Holbrooke told Reuterss. "You'd better believe it, we'll get them."

    Holbrooke also said moves would start this week to suspend U.N. sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs once NATO commanders affirmed that the Serbs were complying with the Dayton peace accord. "We prevented a situation that could have jeopardised the Dayton agreement.

    I believe that we passed the test but it wasn't easy," said Holbrooke. "The lifting of sanctions on (Bosnian Serb) Republika Srpska is the most wonderful news. There is nothing from abroad that can stop the process," Milosevic told reporters.

    But he warned the Bosnian Serb leaders, known to tear up good deals in the past, that sanctions could stay. "It could only be irresponsible behaviour on the part of Republika Srpska. It is completely in their hands."

    A hotline is to be set up between Serb president Milosevic and Bosnian president Izetbegovic to enable them to try to resolve problems as quickly as possible.

    A document on the reunification of Sarajevo said the handover of Serb-held suburbs of the Bosnian capital would take place on March 20 as originally outlined in the Dayton accord.

    The Bosnian government had pushed for the date to be accelerated. "The transfer of authority to the Federation in the five (Serb-held) suburbs will be completed by March 19. Western mediators were determined to avoid any change on the handover date to prevent a sudden panic among Serb citizens.

    In separate talks in Rome, the European Union brokered an agreement between Muslims and Croats to reunify the divided Bosnian town of Mostar to come into effect on February 20. "The European Union presidency in consultation with the administration of Mostar has provided the parties with a comprehensive solution for the integration of Mostar as a unified city," the document said.

    "The toughest part today turned out to be Mostar," Holbrooke said. "It all came down to a high school. Both sides wanted the high school in Mostar. I hear it's a nice school but I dont think it's worth wrecking the whole country over."

  • Berserkistan's background report on Mostar

    Croatia's president Tudjman told reporters that he and Serb president Milosevic had made progress on the question of Eastern Slavonia, the last Serb-held region of Croatia, due to revert to Croatian in two years. "That subject always crops up," said Tudjman, "It is leading to a peaceful resolution and normalization of relations."

  • For additional information on the Rome Summit, see NATO Press Briefing for Saturday, February 17th.

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