Clinton flies in to Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
President Bill Clinton paid a flying visit to Bosnia yesterday and told people in Sarajevo and their leaders that the prospects for peace lay in their hands.

Addressing an audience in the city's national theatre, he said: "In the end the future is up to you, not to the Americans, not to the Europeans and not to anybody else."

Mr Clinton had earlier met the three members of Bosnia's collective presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, Kresimir Zubak and Momcilo Kraijisnik, and reminded them of their obligations under the two-year-old Dayton peace accords. Alluding to continuing difficulties over fulfilment of the accords, especially in forging common political institutions and the return of refugees, he said: "Those who rise to that responsibility will have the full support of the United States and the international community. Those who shirk it will isolate themselves."

Mr Clinton went on from Sarajevo to the north-eastern city of Tuzla, where he extended Christmas greetings to some of the 8,500 US troops serving with the Nato-led Stabilisation force (S-For) and thanked them for their contribution. In Washington last week Mr Clinton had announced that US troops would be remaining in Bosnia beyond the Congress-approved deadline of next June, and that no new date would be set for their withdrawal.

The troops in Tuzla were also addressed briefly by Robert Dole, last year's losing presidential candidate, who is a war hero himself and had long contested the realism of the June deadline. In a political masterstroke, Mr Clinton had invited Mr Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, who is head of the American Red Cross, to accompany him to Bosnia, giving the visit a pointedly bipartisan character. Extending the mandate of US troops, effectively for an indefinite period, is likely to face strong opposition from some Republicans in Congress when it is put to a vote early next year.

l An ally of the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, was proclaimed the winner yesterday in Serbia's presidential elections, described by foreign monitors as "fundamentally flawed". The losing candidate called the vote fraudulent and said he might challenge the results.

The Serbian Electoral Commission said that with about 96 per cent of the votes counted, Mr Milosevic's protegee, Milan Milutinovic, won 58 per cent while ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj had 38 per cent.

The commission said the turnout was 50.53 per cent, just above the 50 per cent minimum to make the election valid. But Mr Seselj's spokesman asserted that the turnout at 97.29 per cent of polling stations was 49.21 per cent. Mr Seselj said that Mr Milosevic's neo-communists rigged the elections by stuffing ballot boxes with false ethnic Albanian votes in Kosovo.

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