Bosnia peace 'blip' smoothed by Holbrooke

The irresistible force behind the Dayton peace plan, the belligerent US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, left here for Belgrade yesterday, confident that the process is back on track following the Bosnian Serbs' decision to restore contacts with Nato's peace force.

The rupture in relations had been ordered by General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander indicted for war crimes, following the arrest by the Bosnian government of two senior Serb officers suspected of massacring civilians. The order was honoured by his minions more in the breach than the observance, and was formally revoked on Saturday night by the civilian Serb leadership, on orders from Belgrade.

Mr Holbrooke, who bludgeoned Bosnia's factions into submission last year, was sent back to the region to cajole the parties into full compliance with Dayton. "I think this is going to get straightened," he said as snow fell on Sarajevo airport. "Admiral Smith [the Nato commander] called it a bump in the road. We agree with him."

After talks with President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Mr Holbrooke is due to return to Sarajevo this morning. According to a US official, his aim in Belgrade was to discuss with Mr Milosevic how best to handle the expected indictment by the international war crimes tribunal of General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic, arrested by Bosnian forces on 30 January.

They were visited in jail yesterday by John Shattuck, the State Department's senior human rights official. He said: "The conditions under which they're being held are very much up to international standards. They seem to be being well treated. They had no specific complaints about the conditions. Both of them are receiving medical assistance and one of them was visited by his wife yesterday, as permitted by the court." Four other Serbs detained by the government were released on Saturday night.

Mr Holbrooke said the arrest of suspected war criminals - criticised by some Nato officials as unhelpful to the peace process - did not conflict with implementation of the deal. "Those are both parts of the Dayton agreement," he said.

However, members of Nato's Implementation Force (I-For) are critical of the emphasis placed on war crimes. "Without diminishing the importance of the work of the war crimes tribunal, their moral crusade is premature, because it's very damaging to the peace process," an I-For official said after Gen Djukic's arrest. "It's making things very difficult for us."

That was not the message Mr Holbrooke brought to his meeting with President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia. There was no pressure for an early release, said Vice-President Ejup Ganic. "My understanding is that the American government is pleased that we are holding two persons that are accused war criminals. They support us."

I-For has sought to distance itself from the issue of war crimes, despite its mandate to arrest suspects indicted by the tribunal if they cross peace-keepers' path. A Nato spokesman, Lt-Col Mark Rayner, admitted that I-For troops had not been issued with the names or photographs of any of the 51 suspects at large, arguing that this would constitute a "man- hunt".

"If [Nato] comes across them in the natural course of their duty they may detain them if practicable - if they see them, if they recognise them. If they don't, they can't," Col Rayner said yesterday. "If you tell a soldier on one hand that you are not here to hunt down indicted war criminals and on the other hand you give him a photograph which helps him do just that, that would send a confusing message."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk