September 15, 1997
In the first municipal elections in seven years, Bosnia is electing a local council. The elections were a key component of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. But are these elections, the first since the Bosnian civil war, a sign that the country is moving towards democratic peace or are they masking persistent problems? After a background report by Charles Krause, Elizabeth Farnsworth will explore the issue with two Senators who have recently traveled to the area.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Bosnians went to the polls this weekend to elect local councils--the first municipal elections in seven years, and the first since Bosnia's civil war erupted in 1992. The voting was carried out under the watchful eye of NATO troops in Bosnia, present yesterday to ensure that the elections--postponed three times--could go ahead this time as planned. The international community spent some $50 million preparing the ballots, as well as the voting places, also assisting in voter education and monitoring the vote. Some voters did experience delays at some voting stations, but there was little violence.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
August 26, 1997
Is NATO ready to arrest more Bosnian war criminals?
August 11, 1997
Elizabeth Farnsworth interviews Richard Holbrooke , chief U.S. negotiator of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
July 10, 1997:
Charles Krause discusses NATO's shooting and arrest of Bosnian war criminals.
May 13, 1997:
Margaret Warner conducts a Newsmaker Interview with Bosnian Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic.
May 12, 1997:
Departing NATO Supreme Commander General George Joulwan discusses the mission in Bosnia.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Bosnia .
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Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Jerusalem Post
OSCE OFFICIAL: I am extremely pleased that the elections have passed off with very little incidence and hardly any violence. I think it's a tremendous tribute to the international team there.
For thousands of Bosnians, a first trip home in years.
CHARLES KRAUSE: For thousands of Bosnians, displaced by ethnic cleansing, yesterday's vote was their first trip home in years. By the busload, they returned to their native villages, at least temporarily. Elections in Bosnia were a key part of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which brought an end to three and a half years of fighting. They were viewed as one way to help encourage people to return to their original homes. Last year, Bosnian Serbs, Croats, and Muslims went to the polls in national elections for a three-person presidency and a parliamentary assembly.
But the municipal elections were postponed because there were still massive numbers of displaced persons caused by the war. Although both national and local elections have now taken place, they have not achieved their principal purpose as envisioned by the Dayton Accords, which was to help recreate a unified Bosnia composed of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Instead, the country remains divided between a Muslim-Croat confederation controlling 51 percent of the territory and the Bosnian Serbs, who control the other 49 percent. Still, there has been some progress since the arrival of nearly 60,000 international troops under NATO command. Outright fighting in Bosnia has now largely come to an end.
But tensions remain high between the three ethnic groups and also between two different factions fighting for control within the Bosnian Serb federation. As a result, the stabilization force, known as S-FOR, and now numbering approximately 30,000 troops, has been drawn more deeply into this contest for power between the two Serb leaders. They are President Biljana Plavsic, who is supported by the West, and the Bosnian Serbs' former Leader Radovan Karadzic, an indicted war criminal still regarded as trying to control his territory from behind the scenes. Most dramatically, in July, British special forces conducted a raid in Prijedor and killed one indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal and captured another. Last month, NATO troops surrounded the police station in Banja Luka, allowing Plavsic supporters to wrest control of it from Karadzic backers. There have also been scattered outbreaks of violence aimed at American and other S-FOR troops by Bosnian Serbs loyal to Karadzic and angry at Western support for Mrs. Plavsic. In Brcko, two American soldiers were slightly wounded in one confrontation with Bosnian Serbs.
Two weeks ago, U.S. troops seized a television transmitter, which they said was being used by Karadzic supporters to spread propaganda. The tower was returned to the Serbs last week after they agreed to broadcast more balanced reports--a promise so far apparently unfulfilled. Western officials have already deemed the weekend elections a success, although the winners will not be known for a week. At a NATO meeting in Brussels today European officials hailed the outcome but again called on the United States to continue its military deployment in Bosnia, and said if the U.S. leaves as scheduled next summer, their troops will also depart.
JIM LEHRER: Elizabeth Farnsworth takes up the story from here.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now the views of two Senators who were in Bosnia last month: Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, a member of the Senate's NATO observer group. Thank you both for being with us. Sen. Biden, based on what you learned and considering the elections last weekend just yesterday and the day before, is the peace implementation process in Bosnia on the right track, in your view?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D) Delaware: It's on the right track but needs a real push. I've been to Bosnia on three occasions, and one of the things that has to become clear to people in Bosnia is that there's a commitment on the part of the European community to sustain the prospect of peace. You know, this was a multi-ethnic society that lived in harmony for generations prior to the onslaught by Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian--the country of Serbia. And so a lot to put back together again here--and two preconditions for that being able to happen is you have to allow democratically elected people to have a chance even in their own ethnic essentially cantons now to be able to be in control. And that requires, when appropriate to, and when convenient, and I mean that literally, to arrest the war criminals, particularly Mr. Karadzic, so that people know that commitment on the part of NATO and the European countries is real. And then they'll be willing to take chances to put this back together again.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And the other precondition?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: The other precondition is we must continue to put pressure upon all of the ethnic communities to allow essentially the repatriation--allow people back into the enclave, the areas, the neighborhoods, the towns from which they were cleansed primarily by the Serbs, but it occurred in other communities as well. It looks as though from the election, my reports are at least two or three communities, which were predominantly of one background--in one case, Serb, that were essentially the Serbs fled, now with the election, it looks like the Serbs may gain control again and we must put pressure on all of the--all of the areas to allow people back into their areas, their neighborhoods, their towns. And that is the second precondition, actually the third, and that is to let people know that there will be a follow-on force to the so-called S-Force in June--or S-FOR in June, which does not have to be composed of American ground troops but should be composed of NATO troops on the ground and American air and intelligence support.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Hutchison, what do you think about what Sen. Biden just said, and based on your trip, give us your assessment of how the implementation process is going overall.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) Texas: Yes. I was there in August, as well, in fact, was walking on the streets of Serbska just before the breakout--in Brcko--I'm sorry--just before the breakout. And I was very concerned that after two years, the progress was very slow.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And you're referring to the events in Brcko when American troops were actually--two people were injured, I believe, and there were stones thrown and firebombs thrown?
On the streets, a less than peaceful coexistence.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Yes. And I went into Serb homes and visited with Muslims on the streets. And I could see that there was not progress toward them actually living 50 feet apart. They just would not even talk to each other. And I was concerned then about whether we were really going to be able to force the repatriation, the resettlement of the refugees with any kind of a timetable that we're looking at. Now, what Sen. Biden just said I think is very hopeful and that is that we have two options, in my opinion, and the first one Sen. Biden just said I think is very real. And that is that everyone understands that the timetable for withdrawal, June of 1998, of American troops, is real. S-FOR is going to be gone. And we need to make sure that that signal is not mixed. And right now I think it is. Secondly, though, I think there is another option, and that is rather than trying to force things that are inherently not peaceful, like resettlement of refugees too quickly, even electing people to these local municipal governments that cannot even come into the cities and serve. I don't think it's a step toward peace. I do think perhaps we ought to look at seeing if we can have a peaceful partition where these countries could have a peaceful coexistence but not force this joint government that isn't real.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes. Sen. Hutchison, let me ask you just very--go ahead, Sen. Biden. Then I have a question too.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: This notion of partition, I understand that it sounds good on the surface, but I think it's a disaster. One, it rewards the ethnic cleansing, which took place, sending a signal throughout the rest of Europe and the Eastern Central Europe, where we had these kinds of divisions that exist all the way through the Trans Caucasus. It would be horrible, in my view. The second thing, it seems to me it does, it creates the obvious annexation of the Serb, the Serbs in Bosnia to Serbia, the Croats to Croatia, leaving this many Islamic state, which will become radicalized. None of those three independent countries, which result from partition, are capable of maintaining themself economically or politically, and it runs counter to what we're trying to do--all of Europe is trying to do--through the beginning of the 21st century, and that is allow circumstance in which people can live together, not having the forceful partitioning. This would be rewarding ethnic cleansing. And I think it would be a disaster not only for American foreign policy but for Europe and the stability of Europe over the next several decades.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Hutchison.
Forcing a multiethnic society on the Balkans.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: I think we're trying to Americanize the Balkans. I think if you look all over Europe, you see small countries that have come together because they have an ethnic group or a natural tendency to want to come together. I think we're trying to force this multiethnic living when these people have had atrocities where people have been killed by the thousands in atrocious ways and we're expecting them to all come together now and forget that. And it's clear from the practical standpoint if you walk on the streets of Brcko, you will hear that they're not forgetting. And I think pushing them too soon is going to cause an ending commitment of American forces, which I don't think has an exit strategy, and I don't think it has a chance to succeed.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Hutchison, is your proposal to basically reconvene Dayton and to recognize that these divisions exist and figure out a way to make peace, given those divisions, not to try to end them?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: I think the best policy would be one that has a chance to succeed, and I don't think Dayton has a chance to succeed, although I will give all the credit to the administration for wanting to do what is right, for wanting these people to live together in this multi-ethnic conclave. But practically, we've looked at for two years, I would like to see now the President step back and say let's come back together, let's talk about what has happened, let's get the parties together, and see if they feel that this has worked, because if you talk to them--and I know, Sen. Biden, you probably have--I have--they don't think this is working, they don't think this is a chance for them to have economic stability. In fact, I think the best chance for economic stability is to let them have governments where the people who are elected can actually serve and help them with economic development, with infrastructure. I would rather put my money there than having troops on the ground that are not able to effect the policy.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: Could I respond quickly to that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Go ahead, Sen. Biden. Yes.
"I'm not looking for Shangri-la immediately-- I'm looking for a multiethnic government."
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: Quickly. No. 1, just think what it says. It says that the people who instituted a policy of genocide in Europe in the 1990's will get exactly what they intended. What will that say to the rest of Europe? No. 2, we're in a situation where we have to give this--I'm not looking for Shangri-la immediately--I'm looking for a multiethnic government. That's what existed before, and that's what should exist in the future. And thirdly, if, in fact, NATO cannot bring peace and stability to the Balkans, how do we justify the continued existence of NATO? And how does European stability fit into this picture? And without a stable Europe, it seems to me we are in serious difficulty in terms of our long-term foreign policy throughout the world. So I really think if we stop back and think of the alternative, that Milosevic and Karadzic wins--that Tudjman gets to pick off an entire country, that he gets to partition. I think that is an absolute capitulation, repeating history like we repeated history in the late 20's and early 30's. I think it's a disaster.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: In think we are--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I have to interrupt you, Sen. Hutchison. We're out of time, but thank you very much, both of you, for being with us.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: Thank you.