G-7 Nations, Russia Pressure Bosnian Serbs
The leading industrial democracies and Russia threatened Saturday to reimpose sanctions on Bosnian Serbs and their patrons in Yugoslavia in a marked escalation of the campaign to remove top rebel leaders from power and eventually bring them to trial for war crimes.
Using a carrot-and-stick approach, the Group of Seven, joined at its annual summit by Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, suggested that economic assistance to all parties in the Balkan conflict will flow more freely if all elements in the convoluted Bosnian political and military scene comply with the peace accord reached in November in Dayton, Ohio.
Sanctions against the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Yugoslavia that in the past have included an economic boycott on all trade, with the exception of food and medicine, can be reimposed only by the top civilian administrator of the peace accord and the American military commander of the international force in Bosnia.
But the summit’s declaration makes clear to the Bosnian Serbs and their supporters in Yugoslavia that these officials will have the crucial support of the United States, Russia and other key players as they try to loosen Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic’s strong grip on power.
Karadzic and his military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, have been indicted for war crimes and are thus prohibited from holding public office under the Dayton agreement. Their refusal to step down has been a slap in the face of the international community and is seen as a destabilizing factor as Bosnia prepares for national elections Sept. 14.
“I hope Mr. Karadzic and anyone who would have influence on him will understand there are limits,” French President Jacques Chirac said.
Meanwhile, President Clinton, declaring that Bosnia “has moved from the horror of war into the hope of peace,” announced three programs for the struggling nation: $15 million to train demobilized soldiers to clear an estimated 3 million land mines; $5 million to help Bosnian women find jobs and create businesses in a country where many men were killed in ethnic fighting; and the establishment of an international commission, under former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, to resolve nearly 12,000 missing-person cases.
In addition, the nations present at Saturday’s sessions--Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States--recommended that NATO-led peacekeepers, including about 20,000 Americans, create “a safe and secure environment” for the Bosnian elections in September. Putting the troops on election patrol would be an expansion of their duties.
The summit’s declaration contained no deadline for the reimposition of sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs and the rump Yugoslavia, which now comprises only the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.
But Carl Bildt, the Swedish diplomat charged with overseeing the civilian aspects of the Dayton accord, has suggested that he might seek some measures as early as Monday.
Clinton’s national security advisor, Anthony Lake, did not quarrel with that possibility, but he said that Monday would not be a “drop-dead date.”
A White House official said that if sanctions are imposed, the first will probably be those that could take effect quickly, including a break in transportation links, a halt to financial transactions across local borders and a cutoff of petroleum deliveries.
“It has the potential for getting people’s attention, because the Serb economy, just having restarted, would stop in its tracks,” the official said.
Bosnia was initially expected to be the summit’s central issue. But the truck-bomb explosion that killed 19 Americans at a military housing complex outside Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday focused the spotlight during the early sessions--at U.S. insistence and with European grumbling--on terrorism.
The Group of Seven agreed to adopt a set of 40 measures, many of them vague, intended to restrict the financial, strategic and tactical operations of terrorists.
“It’s not the Cold War, it’s not World War II, but it’s an important part of our struggle to make this a civilized and sane world,” Clinton said at a news conference Saturday.
But he added: “We can’t make all the problems of the world go away.”
The summit’s declaration on Bosnia was an effort to use the leaders’ collective clout to persuade Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to end the reign of Karadzic and Mladic. Milosevic’s government was long a sponsor of the Bosnian Serb rebels, but he has recently promised to help remove the two leaders from power.
On Friday in Bosnia, Karadzic presided over a meeting of his Serbian Democratic Party and offered no suggestion that he intended to step aside, by Monday or any other deadline. On Saturday, he was reelected to lead the party.
The United States and its allies want to see Karadzic and Mladic “out of power, out of influence and out of town,” a U.S. official said.
“We think that is very important,” Clinton said. But he said that international peacekeepers, from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia, will not be asked to seize Karadzic and Mladic by force. Instead, the troops have been instructed to take war crimes suspects into custody if they encounter them.
As the two days of G-7 diplomacy drew to a close, Clinton met briefly with Chernomyrdin. The Russian official was dispatched to represent Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, who stayed home to campaign for Wednesday’s election.
Over the last week, Yeltsin has been laid up by what has been described as a sore throat. The frequently hoarse Clinton said he had no information that would suggest Yeltsin’s health problems were other than described, and he added that such an ailment was “something I can identify with before an election.”
On political matters such as Bosnia, the group showed little of the disagreement that marked its economic discussions Friday. But sharp differences remain over the renomination of Boutros Boutros-Ghali as secretary-general of the United Nations.
The United States strongly opposes his election to a second five-year term; France is equally adamant in its support of the former Egyptian foreign minister. Their differences were likely to be raised at a private dinner for Chirac and Clinton in Paris on Saturday night before Clinton headed back to the United States.
There was an awkward moment Saturday when Boutros-Ghali joined the government leaders at a meeting added to the summit agenda. His participation, along with that of the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, underscored the increasing role the international institutions expect to play in a globally integrated economy.
The summit-ending declaration called for a deeper commitment to reforms at the United Nations, which the United States has complained is overstaffed and mismanaged.
On other issues, the summit participants:
* Acknowledged the security themes on which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu based his successful election campaign--but also supported the concept of “land for peace” that obliges Israel to relinquish territory captured from Arabs in exchange for a commitment to peace.
* Renewed pressure for the completion of a comprehensive treaty banning nuclear tests.