Ex-Swedish Premier Likely to Lead Bosnian Administration : Peacekeeping: Carl Bildt is known as a patient negotiator and an astute politician. He gains U.S. support to head civilian arm of difficult mission.


U.S. and European officials are settling on former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt as their choice to lead the civilian arm of the upcoming peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

The High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina will act as a kind of governing official for Bosnia, having the final say on such civilian issues as elections, human rights, refugees, police, relief and economic reconstruction.

He alone will have the power to declare any of Bosnia’s three warring factions out of compliance with the peace agreement they initialed last week in Dayton, Ohio. In the case of the Serbs, any lack of compliance could trigger a resumption of the sanctions against the rump Yugoslavia that the United Nations suspended as a reward for its agreeing to the accord.

Although the representative’s role will be crucial on civilian matters, a U.S. diplomat stressed that “he will have no role in deciding or purporting to make decisions on military questions.” All military matters will be in the hands of two high-ranking American officers: Gen. George A. Joulwan, NATO’s supreme commander, and Adm. Leighton W. Smith, the commander of NATO forces in Southern Europe.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization commanders, however, do not want their troops distracted by civilian duties as they try to enforce cease-fire lines and corral the heavy weapons of the Balkan belligerents. That refusal to take on such duties has increased the potential importance of the chief civilian on the scene.

For five months, the 46-year-old Bildt has served as the European Union’s peacemaker in Bosnia, a role largely eclipsed recently by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, who led the successful peace initiative that culminated in the Dayton initialing.

Although there has been some friction between Bildt and U.S. diplomats in the past, Americans were evidently impressed with his work as he represented the EU in the Dayton talks. Unless the Russians object--and so far they have not--diplomatic sources believe that Bildt will be selected after the peace agreement is formally signed next month in Paris.

The probable choice of a European to lead the civilian arm of the peacekeeping mission did not surprise diplomats. The operation would lose its international cast--and irritate the Europeans, who are contributing the largest share of troops and a major share of the cost--if Americans dominated both its military and civilian wings.

Bildt held a four-party center-right coalition together between 1991 and 1994 in Sweden, making him the first conservative Swedish premier in this century to serve a full term in office.

Bildt, who is fluent in English, French and German, is noted as both a patient negotiator and an outspoken politician. He infuriated Croatian President Franjo Tudjman several weeks ago with his denunciation of the Croatian army’s seizure of the Serb-occupied Krajina region of Croatia.

Diplomatic sources say that German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who regards himself as a conservative patron of Bildt and has a good deal of influence on the Croatian government, will surely assuage any Tudjman resistance to the selection of the Swedish politician.

In a normal U.N. peacekeeping operation, almost all civilian matters are handled by U.N. agencies. The secretary general then appoints a representative to coordinate all their activities. But according to the terms of the Dayton agreement, the key civilian official will report to the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Russia and all other interested governments.

In the case of Bosnia, as one U.N. official put it, “the U.N. has been largely left out” because “it has become a pariah in Washington.” American officials look on the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia as a grand failure and do not want to tar the impending enforcement mission with a sullied image.

In line with this, the Dayton agreement provides a limited role for the United Nations: It will be in charge of developing a civilian police force, and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees will remain in charge of humanitarian relief to the vast pools of refugees in the ravaged country. The World Bank (an independent agency with loose ties to the United Nations) and the EU will share responsibility for economic reconstruction while the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe supervises elections and monitors human rights violations.

“The High Representative will have to be in charge of six horses going in different directions,” said a U.N. official pleased with the probable appointment of Bildt. “It demands someone of colossal stature with access to all. It is a job for a politician, a statesman, not a civil servant.”