- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2008

Spotlight on Bosnia

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s false claim that she flew into Bosnia under sniper fire in 1996 brought fresh attention to the Balkan nation still teetering over ethnic tensions, but Bosnian Ambassador Bisera Turkovic says that is not the kind of attention her country needs.

“We hope to have Bosnia on their minds,” she told Embassy Row. “We need America’s support. I would love to see the candidates talk much more about Bosnia.”

Ms. Turkovic sympathized with Mrs. Clinton’s predicament after the New York Democrat admitted last week that a tale she had told of the hair-raising drama of a first lady and her daughter dodging bullets in Bosnia was false. Her trip was in March 1996, three months after President Clinton concluded the Dayton peace accords that ended the civil war that left more than 100,000 dead and 1.8 million homeless in a nation of 4 million citizens.

“She explained she misspoke,” the ambassador said, suspecting the cause of Mrs. Clinton’s misstatement was weariness from the long campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times last week that the U.S. has paid a lot of attention to Bosnia. She met with the presidents of the Bosnian republic and its two component parts, the Serb Republic and the Croat-Muslim Federation, in Washington about 18 months ago. Miss Rice told them that any country with three presidents is bound to have problems.

“It’s not that the people aren’t paying attention to Bosnia, it’s that Bosnia must do more to make itself a workable state,” she said.

Tough terrain

The dense jungles of South America are hampering efforts by the Organization of American States to cool the still-simmering tensions from Colombia’s March 1 attack on a leftist guerrilla camp across the border in Ecuador, the OAS head says.

“This is one place on Earth that God did not intend for people to live in,” OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza told a packed briefing last week at the Inter-American Dialogue attended by our correspondent, David R. Sands.

Drug lords and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, have taken refuge in the remote border area, making it hard for either country or for outside powers to police the region, Mr. Insulza said.

The Colombian strike, which killed a top FARC leader and more than two dozen others, sparked a regional crisis and brief military standoff pitting Colombia against Ecuador and Venezuela.

Mr. Insulza said he visited the Ecuador site with a contingent of nearly 100 officials, diplomats and journalists. He said it would be almost impossible to verify claims that guerrillas had been flushed from the Ecuadorean side of the border.

“There could have been a rebel camp 100 meters beyond the creek where we were, and you wouldn’t have known about it,” he said. “That’s what we are dealing with.”

At an emergency meeting this month, OAS states “rejected” the Colombian strike, but stopped short of an outright condemnation of the incident. The White House sided with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a key U.S. ally in South America.

Mr. Insulza said the 35-nation OAS has no choice but to stand strongly behind the principle of national sovereignty and the inviolability of national borders.

“We have four of the world’s 10 largest countries and some of the world’s smallest in the OAS,” he noted. “If we accept the possibility that one country has the right to go into the territory of another, we would really be in difficulty.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@

washingtontimes.com.

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