US envoy puts pressure on war criminals

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The Independent Online
Bidding to salvage the Dayton peace accords he brokered 21 months ago, Richard Holbrooke yesterday racheted up pressure on suspected war criminals at large in the former Bosnia by meeting with the two top US military commanders who would have to give their blessing to any move to arrest them.

On the second day of his visit to Bosnia, the special envoy conferred in the northern town of Tuzla with John Shalikashvili, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and General Wesley Clark, NATO's Sup- reme commander in Europe.

No details emerged, but the message was clear: the allies are in earnest with threats against suspects like the Bosnian Serb war leader, Radovan Karadzic, formally barred from office, but who none the less wields huge influence from his stronghold of Pale, east of Sarajevo.

Mr Holbrooke is the latest of a series of high profile Western visitors, all of them with the aim of preventing the Dayton deal from unravelling. Thanks to the presence of NATO troops, the fighting has stopped, but a Bosnian state is as remote a prospect as ever.

Corruption is rife, progress towards common phone and aviation systems is far behind schedule, the symbols of statehood are virtually non-existent, and tribal hatreds constantly interfere with the return of war refugees to their former homes.

"If refugees aren't allowed to return, you will have a de facto division of Bosnia," Mr Holbrooke said after meeting Franjo Tudjman, the Croatian Presi- dent, and the Muslim leader Alia Izetbegovic, in Split on Wednesday.

He has collected little more than promises, in this case a pledge by the Messrs Tudjman and Izetbegovic to prosecute any of their officials who had a role in the latest violence.