- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2002

SARAJEVO, Bosnia Members of the U.N. police mission in Bosnia say uncertainty about whether their mission will be extended is making a tough job even tougher.

Members of the U.N. mission, which includes 46 Americans, have for six years been training 40,000 Bosnian police officers to operate as a professional force with respect for human rights and the rule of law.

But their operation is at risk of being terminated next week as a result of a dispute between the United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council about the new International Criminal Court.

The mission was scheduled to run until December, and all of its projects are culminating in the next few months, staffers said in interviews.

"We've worked on this for years. And you want to uproot the tree just when it's bearing fruit," said Satya Tripathi, deputy chief of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Sarajevo.

The process of certification of police has not been completed, and the organization is still working on its final recommendations, staff members said. "If they didn't need us, they would have [ended the mission] years ago," Mr. Tripathi said.

The United States two weeks ago vetoed a routine six-month extension of the Bosnian police mission's mandate to press its demand that participants in peacekeeping missions be exempt from prosecution by the international court.

When the other council members refused to budge, the council agreed on a brief extension until July 15. Council members said yesterday that they still hope to resolve the issue by then.

But U.N. staff in Sarajevo say the uncertainly has disrupted their work, with field workers not certain of how to proceed. Officers were told at one point to watch the news and not work or wear their uniforms if the mandate were not extended.

"The uncertainty is making a tough job even tougher, but we have to live with it," said Patrik Volf, spokesman for the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia.

"There are really important programs that we need to complete to create a democratic police force, and we need the next couple of months to finish this up," added Kirsten Haupt, a U.N. spokeswoman.

Officers with the units that raid nightclubs suspected of using prostitutes trafficked from other countries say they have stopped planning raids, which need to be organized well in advance.

About 1,500 Bosnians working for the organization also are starting to make contingency plans.

Callers to radio talk shows said they fear a return to civil war if the United Nations leaves, though the larger peacekeeping force, which gets it mandate from NATO, is not threatened.

A poll conducted by the newspaper Dnevni Avaz showed that 74 percent of those surveyed want the Americans to stay involved.

"The international community cannot afford to let Bosnia down after trying so hard and spending so much money to reform the country," Prime Minister Dragan Mikerevic said at a news conference last week. "Bosnia is too fragile to resolve these problems on its own."

Saed Numanovic, a journalist at Dnevni Avaz, said the matter was "out of our hands. … Bosnia is collateral damage in the battle between the United States and the rest of the world."

But he predicted that Bosnia would manage even if all of the peacekeepers left. "It may even be better because it will show us that our destiny is in Europe, not in America," Mr. Numanovic said.

Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this report.

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