Bosnia's leaders told to do their job or lose it to international envoy

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The Independent Online
Bosnia's bickering leaders were given an ultimatum yesterday, ordering them to start governing their country or let the international community do it for them.

At the end of a two-day meeting in Bonn, representatives of 51 countries approved a document which came close to giving dictatorial powers to Carlos Westendorp, the chief co-ordinator in Bosnia.

"A clear signal has been sent from Bonn: the patience of the international community is not inexhaustible," declared Klaus Kinkel, the German foreign minister who hosted the Peace Implementation Conference.

Under the new rules, Mr Westendorp will be able to take decisions that would normally be in the remit of the Bosnian government. He will thus design the country's car licence plates by the end of January; a task that has eluded the combined Croat, Serb and Muslim authorities so far.

The new policy is already making its effect felt. Under the aegis of the Bonn meeting, the leaders of the three communities were at last able to agree on the design of the Bosnian passport, and a new law defining citizenship.

Asked by journalists after the meeting whether Bosnia had now become an international "protectorate", Mr Kinkel said "no", while Mr Westendorp, revealingly, answered "not yet". Mr Westendorp, whose official title is "High Representative", served notice that he now expected the former warring parties to start co-operating with the international court in The Hague, to build a police force, and to clamp down on corruption.

At the insistence of Robin Cook, the British Foreign Secretary, and the US representative, Strobe Talbott, the final document also deplored "escalating ethnic tensions" in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The Yugoslav delegation responded to the call for a dialogue between Belgrade and Kosovo's Albanian population by storming out of the conference.

- Imre Karacs, Bonn