AUGUST 6, 1996
With nationwide elections scheduled next month in Bosnia, U.S. diplomats are working overtime to remove the most glaring obstacles to a successful vote. Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, who replaced diplomat Richard Holbrooke, visited Bosnia last week.
July 22, 1996
Richard Holbrooke discusses his efforts to remove Radovan Karadzic from power
July 1, 1996
Western diplomats work to deal with convicted war criminals
Browse the NewsHour's Bosnia Index
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In the Southwestern city of Mostar, a struggle for power between Croats and Muslims who live divided on opposite sides of the river has threatened to derail the peace process. Municipal elections here on June 30th were widely seen as a kind of dress rehearsal for the September nationwide vote. The European Union, which has administered Mostar since 1994, validated a slender Muslim victory in the local balloting. Croats refused to accept the results and the ensuing impasse provided a dangerous precedent for September. But today, after weeks of negotiating, Bosnian Croats and Muslims signed an agreement to share power on an interim basis, averting, at least for now, a crisis in this pivotal month before the wider vote.
The other major obstacle to successful elections has proven more intractable. That's the continuing influence of Radovan Karadzic in spite of his apparent resignation from leadership of Bosnian Serbs last month. Karadzic has been indicted for war crimes by the International Tribunal in the Hague, and warrants are out for his arrest. The Dayton Peace Accord signed last November mandates Karadzic's removal from power as a precondition for elections. After a special mission to Bosnia last month by former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, Karadzic publicly gave up his political powers.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, Former Asst. Secretary of State: (July 19) I want to stress he knew what he was signing. He knew he was signing the end of his political career.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But some Bosnian Muslims were clearly worried that even though Karadzic was powerless on paper, his influence would still be felt.
EJUB GANIC, Vice President, Bosnia: Unfortunately, we know that Karadzic will continue to act in informal way, with the same degree of damage unless he's removed.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In an interview on the NewsHour, Richard Holbrooke voiced the same concern.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: The next step in the process is that Karadzic should leave Pale, the mountain stronghold which he really created. As long as he's in Pale, even if he's invisible, even if he's out of public and political life, I personally feel uncomfortable and so do my colleagues.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Here now, as promised, is the U.S. envoy to the Balkans, Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum. He was both in Pale and Mostar last week. Thanks for being with us.
JOHN KORNBLUM, Assistant Secretary of State: Good evening.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Beginning with the effort to remove Mr. Karadzic, Richard Holbrooke got part of that done, what was your goal in Pale last week?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, as Amb. Holbrooke said in the clip that you showed, our goal here is to make sure that the removal of Karadzic also results in improved implementation, in other words, that things happen the way we want them to happen. I went to Pale first to stress the importance of the agreement, and to stress that when we say out of power, out of influence, we mean out of power, out of influence, that he should not be present, not be visible, and preferably not be in Pale, but secondly, I went with a fairly long catalogue of issues, unfortunately, where the Bosnian Serbs are not living up to the agreement, and I spent a good hour in the first part of our conversation reading off the areas where we expected improvement. Our strategy is not simply to get a signed piece of paper. Our strategy is to take the signed piece of paper and the commitment that it entails and to make sure that the Bosnian Serbs participate fully in getting ready for the very important elections which are coming up in about six weeks.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Did you have any success in getting him to agree to leave Pale? I gather you want him out of Pale because that's the nerve center of his party's electoral effort?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Yes, but more importantly, we want him out of influence, and we want there to be results. There are always two ways of looking at this. You can say we want him out of there, and we do, but just as important is we want results, we want there to be successful elections. That means we want there to be improved freedom of movement, freedom of the press. We want polling stations to be open and easily accessible. We want all of the things which are in the Dayton Agreement to be done appropriately. This was my other major goal there, and as I said, I had a very detailed discussion with the Pale leadership. I'm going to have a similar discussion with President Milosevic in Belgrade in two days. And we hope that by keeping up this pressure, by stressing that we want results, that we will make clear to everyone that this process must go forward.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Opposition parties, especially in Banja Luka, have said that led by Karadzic, his party is trying to keep them from participating fully in the elections. Is that the kind of thing you mean when you say they haven't been living up to the accords?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, yes, exactly. A number of opposition parties have registered. There are also some voters' alliances. These people should be given full access to the media, should be able to hold their rallies without interruption. All that isn't happening, and these are the kinds of things that we're focusing on and we expect results on.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It sounds like you're in the midst of this, that there's been no agreement that he would leave Pale?
SEC. KORNBLUM: At the moment, there hasn't been, no, but there is, there is enough evidence that he is not directing the government on a daily basis that we feel that we should now make clear what that means. It doesn't simply mean to tell us that he's no longer directing the government. It means actually doing something.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you have any fear that you're making him a mythical figure with this effort to remove him? Some of the opposition leaders--again, I'm thinking of a Mr. Radic and Mr. Radizic, which are--who are both in Banja Luka, I believe--have said that by forcing him to leave, you're making him kind of a hero, the person that the West is so against, do you fear that?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, that could be a result if we did it, if we focused only on him and turned him into sort of the single symbol of everything, but first you have to remember that he was indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal. His own government has an obligation to turn him over. Secondly, uh, I would focus, again, on the results. Umm, his time, especially the months of the spring of this year when he was clearly in power, led to a good deal of misbehavior of, of fully of blocking the agreement of less than full implementation. And so we have given them a choice, and that's the thing that I also said to the Pale leadership.
We are certainly not against Serbians or even against the republic of Serbska. It is part of the Dayton Agreement. What we expect now from the new leadership is a sense of, if you will, vision--of a vision for their people to participate fully in the very, very profitable--I mean that in the sense of the health of their country--peace agreement which had been put before them. And so he's not a mythical figure at all. He's somebody who was blocking the agreement. We now expect from the Pale leadership that they will, if you will, overcome this sense of Karadzic and give us a sense that they're actually moving forward.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Speaking--you mentioned the war crimes indictment. The British newspaper, the London Times, has reported that--citing U.S. and British intelligence sources--reported from Washington that there's a plan underway with agents in the field, infrastructure, equipment in the field, to seize Karadzic in Pale to take him to be tried.
SEC. KORNBLUM: Yes, well--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Any truth to that?
SEC. KORNBLUM: I saw that article. Well, of course, we don't comment on such plans, but I think the White House already made clear that there isn't such an active plan underway now. These are things which come out of the press very often; people love to write about them. Our strategy is a clear political strategy, and we're moving forward with it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You said no active plan now.
SEC. KORNBLUM: No. I'm not trying to have any--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay.
SEC. KORNBLUM: --nuances in what I'm saying.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay.
SEC. KORNBLUM: Our strategy is a political strategy.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: On Mostar, would you explain the agreement that was signed today?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Yes. Umm, Mostar first--Mostar is important because, as your film demonstrated, it was the first election in the federation. The federation is half of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And it also demonstrated that we were moving forward. And the effort by the Croatian side to contest the elections was not just an interruption of the results of the election but it was also, if you will, a sort of a symbolic test of everybody's ability to move forward on the basis of democratic elections, so it was very important that the disagreement be overcome. The time that it took to overcome it demonstrated how deep the divisions and how deep--you have to use the word hatreds are there. What the agreement ends up with is, umm, if you will, a compromise. But I think it's a very useful compromise.
When President Tudjman of Croatia visited President Clinton on Friday, we all agreed, including President Tudjman, that any compromise had to be based on accepting the election results, again, a basic principle. You can't throw out an election because you don't like it. Uh, the result reaffirms the election results. It calls for a meeting of the council. It calls for a--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We should get clear. This is a city council.
SEC. KORNBLUM: It is a city council, right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Which Muslims won a one-person majority, is that right?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: A Muslim coalition?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Right. It calls for the election of a mayor and a deputy mayor, and by the way, it has already been agreed that the mayor will be a Croatian. It then also calls for a suit to be brought before the constitutional court of the federation to listen to the complaints that the Croatians have about the election, and it provides that he council will not have another full meeting until this has been settled one way or the other. It was very hard fought because you can see even in that short summary lots of details, lots of places where one side or the other may expect that something was being put over on them.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How was the agreement arrived at? I mean, it's been months. You were there last week meeting with both sides.
SEC. KORNBLUM: Last week. Well, it hasn't been months since the election--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm sorry.
SEC. KORNBLUM: The elections were held at the end of June.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm sorry, a month, yeah, weeks.
SEC. KORNBLUM: It's been a month. The election--the agreement was arrived at through direct negotiations with the European Union negotiators. As you said, the European Union has a mandate in Mostar between the parties and also with diplomatic efforts by ourselves and others, with the officials in Sarajevo and in Zagreb. The final break, I think, came when President Tudjman came to Washington and spoke with the President and the Vice President, and we made clear that as far as we were concerned, this was essential not only to the whole peace process but to the development of our relations with Croatia.
I was there, and I talked with all the parties, and I think I helped a bit by helping prepare the discussions here in Washington. I, along with a number of people in other countries were on the phone more or less continuously over the weekend talking with the various parties to make sure they understood both the details and the importance of what they were into, and today, finally, we got the agreement and it is, needless to say, a good step forward.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Briefly in the minute we have left, are you hoping that agreements like this will sort of establish a new way of working out difficulties--that there will be a kind of a momentum that is reached because of this kind of agreement?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Yes, of course, that's our hope. I mean, much of this kind of thing, be it in Bosnia or in other parts of the world, is like riding a bicycle. Underneath it all, there are tensions, hates, history. You have to keep moving forward. And if you do move forward, you can hopefully build interests which start overcoming these tensions and hates. This is the way of a new kind of diplomacy which has built up in the past few years. Mostar, the elections in Bosnia, and the next steps we have afterwards are our bicycle and our effort to keep it going, and I think we will.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Kornblum.
SEC. KORNBLUM: My pleasure.