- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Bush administration yesterday brokered an agreement among the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three main ethnic groups to revise the country’s constitution and centralize power in a single strong government.

Bosnian Serb leaders also promised for the first time to help deliver indicted fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic to the international tribunal at The Hague for war-crimes trials.

The agreement, coming a day after the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian war, was reached under pressure from the United States and the European Union as a condition for any future membership in NATO and the EU.

“We have decided to embark upon a process of constitutional reform that will enhance the authorities of the state government and streamline parliament and the office of the presidency,” said a statement signed by eight leaders from the country’s Serbian, Muslim and Croatian communities.

“These are only the first steps,” it said. “We recognize that further reforms of the constitution will be necessary to meet the European Union’s accession criteria.”

The Dayton Accords, brokered by the Clinton administration, established two political entities — a Serbian republic and the Muslim-Croatian federation. It also created a weak government with a three-member presidency and duplicate institutions.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who announced yesterday’s agreement after intense negotiations over the last three days, called it “an example of how diverse people can live together without fear.”

The deal did not outline details, but the leaders said they were committed to working them out by March, ahead of parliamentary elections.

Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, said all had agreed to create a single presidency.

“We decided not to get into specifics, or else the whole thing would fall apart,” he said. “The overall import of all of this is to put Bosnia on a road going to Europe.”

R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs and the administration’s point man for the Balkans, called on Monday for “a strong prime minister and a more effective parliament” in addition to only one president.

Last month, Bosnia set up a single Defense Ministry after 10 years with two armies, two defense ministers and two chiefs of staff. It also has 14 education departments.

Miss Rice and Bosnian Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanic yesterday signed a Status of Forces Agreement, which allows the United States access to Bosnian facilities, and an Open Skies civil-aviation agreement.

The secretary paid tribute to the Dayton Accords, which ended a three-year conflict that claimed more than 200,000 lives and drove more than 2 million people from their homes.

She said “there can be no more excuses, no more delays” for not bringing Mr. Karadzic and Gen. Mladic to justice.

“These men do not represent the interests of the Republika Srpska [Serbian Republic] or Bosnia and Herzegovina, and their continued fugitive status threatens our future,” the Bosnian leaders said in yesterday’s statement.

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