May 21, 1996
Campaign to Oust Karadzic Seems to Have Ended in Failure
By CHRIS HEDGES
ALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The international campaign to weaken Radovan Karadzic's grip on power, and perhaps even drive the Bosnian Serb leader from office, appears to have ended for now in failure.
Karadzic, who has been indicted as a war criminal and is not recognized by the rest of the world as the legitimate leader of Serbian-held Bosnia, has succeeded in ousting Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic, and has named new hardliners to fill key government posts.
Kasagic, who worked closely with other countries to implement the Dayton peace accord, has dropped out of sight. And despite pressure by western countries to oust Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, has refused to do anything more than issue statements condemning the latest consolidation of Karadzic's power.
The moves by Karadzic are ominous. They push back the international efforts to prepare for Bosnian elections, which are due to take place on Sept. 14. If Karadzic is still in power in July, when campaigning is to begin, many western diplomats say that it will be impossible to hold meaningful elections. And, for the first time since the Dayton agreement, there appears to be an urgency among western diplomats to get rid of Karadzic, perhaps, in the end, by military force.
"If Karadzic is in a position to actively take part in the election campaign," said Ambassador Michael Steiner, deputy to Carl Bildt, "then any election campaign make no sense."
Bildt, who is in charge of the civilian aspects of the peace accords, has been trying to bolster moderate Bosnian Serb leaders, including the ousted prime minister, over the last few months.
Bildt has often been criticized for weak leadership, and western diplomats on Monday welcomed his emergence, for the first time, as a forceful advocate for a change in the Bosnian Serb leadership. They conceded, however, that he has few tools to threaten or cajole the Bosnian Serbs at his disposal, other than the carrot of international aid.
Together with the United States, Bildt is now rallying international support, much of it aimed at pressuring Milosevic to force Karadzic to relinquish power. Milosevic needs to open trade with Europe and desperately desires loans to jump-start his moribund economy.
But western diplomats also said that if the elections were canceled it would signal a collapse of the peace process and could lead to a renewal of the conflict. They conceded that they might be forced to go ahead, even with Karadzic in a position of power.
"We run the serious risk of the collapse of the peace process, in all its splendor, the military dimension and the civilian side," said Ambassador Robert H. Frowick, the head of mission that will oversee the elections. Frowick, representing the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, said: "There is enormous pressure to find a way to meet reasonable desiderata to proceed."
The current clash, although it ended in Karadzic's favor, however, is the beginning of a drive by Bildt to push Karadzic out of office, according to Steiner. The focus of attention has now shifted from Pale, the Bosnian Serb stronghold, to Belgrade. And Bildt's office hopes that European and American envoys will deliver harsher messages to Milosevic to use whatever forces are at his disposal to get rid of Karadzic. Western diplomats, in recent days, have told Milosevic that he will not receive the economic support he desires until Karadzic is replaced.
These diplomats said, however, that Milosevic shows little interest in taking forceful action to remove Karadzic. They said that it appears that Milosevic hopes that the September elections, which Karadzic is not allowed to enter, will remove the Bosnian Serb leader from any major role in Bosnian politics.
"Milosevic has moved and has produced something," said Steiner, "but it is important that he understands that this is not what we wanted. While he may think he has done enough, we don't think he has done enough."
Karadzic has announced that he would turn over international negotiations to a hardline supporter, Biljana Plavsic. This was initially greeted as a sign of weakness by Bildt's office. But it was clear on Monday, from statements made in Pale, that it instead meant a stiffening of the refusal by Pale to implement the civilian aspects of the Dayton accord, including permission for displaced people and refugees to return home and the efforts to create a unified Bosnia.
"After three wars in this century, we can't live together," the new prime minister, Gojko Klickovic, said on Monday night, rejecting the call by the peace accords for a united Bosnia.
And Mrs. Plavsic, named by Karadzic as a vice-president, said the only reason she had been given authority was because "the international community does not want to talk to President Karadzic."