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UN official warns of dire results if world abandons efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina

UN official warns of dire results if world abandons efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina

The precedent of giving up on a multiethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a "disaster" for the country's people, the region and the international community, a senior United Nations official warned the Security Council today.

Calling Bosnia and Herzegovina a "test case" of international efforts, Jacques Paul Klein, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, said disengagement would have implications beyond the country's borders. "If international intervention fails there, we abandon the hopes of a new generation that is just beginning to exercise democracy, and we sound the death knell for multiethnic States anywhere in the Balkans, with grave implications for peace and stability in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and elsewhere," he said.

The Special Representative further warned that the credibility of international cooperation itself was at stake. "If after six years of massive engagement the result is failure and withdrawal, United Nations authority, the NATO alliance and the principle of multiethnic tolerance as a basis of democratic society are all compromised," he said. "If we abandon the field now to extremists, partitionists and segregationists, the moral and political basis for future interventions against ethnic cleansing and expulsion of minority populations is weakened, perhaps fatally."

While noting that the Balkans were in a "complex and volatile period," Mr. Klein reported that there were more grounds for optimism than pessimism. Croatian, Bosnian and Yugoslav leaders had established a cooperation based "not on love but on realism," he said. Seizing the opportunity presented by these new circumstances, the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) had been promoting regional efforts to combat illegal migration and organized crime.

Welcoming the setting up of truth and reconciliation commissions in both Sarajevo and Belgrade, he stressed that this development marked "the first brave steps by the people themselves to establish what really happened and what and who plunged one of the most developed socialist States into a vortex of barbarism and self-destruction."

Mr. Klein also reported on progress in promoting ethnic integration in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "The monoethnic wastelands are being reversed," he said, noting the recent success of international action against ethnic extremists. "The political crisis is not yet over, but for the ultranationalists, the writing is clearly on the wall."

Following Mr. Klein's opening briefing, the Council held a wide-ranging discussion on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the activities of the UN mission in the country, and the broader regional security situation.