Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Diminished U.N. Role May Hamper Relief Work in Bosnia

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Diminished U.N. Role May Hamper Relief Work in Bosnia

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON and other U.S. policy-makers are calling attention to a number of civilian programs that may be crucial in determining whether long-term peace takes hold in Bosnia.

Questions abound about the wisdom and feasibility of the nonmilitary programs set down in the peace deal - elections, resettlement of refugees, human rights monitoring, police training and economic reconstruction.

No one denies their importance. Clinton told a group of human rights workers in the White House last week that the military mission of "creating a climate of security" would allow "a separate broad international relief effort for relief and reconstruction to begin. . . . I cannot overstate the importance of that effort. For peace to endure, the people of Bosnia must receive the tangible benefits of peace."

But some critics say the civilian programs might be hampered in getting off the ground by the United States' insistence that the United Nations - which has worked in Bosnia for more than three years - be used as little as possible, even though the United Nations has more than 1,000 civilian workers in Bosnia and a developed infrastructure of communication, transportation, equipment and files.

Worried about the woeful reputation that U.N. peacekeepers acquired during the civil war in Bosnia, U.S. officials are adamant that the civilian side of the Bosnia mission not look like a U.N. operation. `A Scarlet Letter'

This has evoked a good deal of bitterness among U.N. officials, who argue that their humanitarian work during the war saved the lives of several hundred thousand people in Bosnia. "There is an overwhelming predilection in Washington to look on the U.N. as a scarlet letter," said a U.N. official in Zagreb, with biting sarcasm. "The Americans don't want to compromise the vigor of the (NATO) operation."

The United States maintains that elections will be the most important of the civilian programs. In fact, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke called elections "a test" of the success of the NATO mission.

There are doubters that the Bosnians will pass that test. James Schear of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said: "It will be very, very difficult to pull them off within the (agreement's) time frame of six to nine months. …

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