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International Envoy to Bosnia Gives Upbeat Report on Economic Reform Progress - 2003-10-08

The international community's top envoy in Bosnia, says the job of implementing the 1995 Dayton peace accord is nearing completion. But in a speech to the U.N. Security Council, the envoy, Paddy Ashdown, said the unfinished business is bringing war criminals to justice.

Mr. Ashdown told the Security Council there's plenty of good news on Bosnia. In an upbeat report, the former British Liberal Democrat party leader said economic reforms are rapidly transforming the country. He said steps such as replacing what he called the country's 'rotten, corruption-prone' tax system, and cutting red tape are already making themselves felt.

But there's bad news, too. While economic reforms are erasing the effects of decades of communist rule, indicted war criminals have not been arrested.

Mr. Ashdown said the wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his former general, Radko Mladic, remain powerful. "We are too well aware of pernicious influence that indicted war criminals like Mr. Karadzic are still able to exert over Bosnia's political environment. Mr. Karadzic may not be able to block the process of reform any longer, but he remains a baleful curse over the whole country, and the sooner that is removed, the better. We know that peace cannot be described as fully entrenched until the perpetrators of these unspeakable crimes are finally brought to justice," he said.

Mr. Ashdown's comments came a day after U.S. officials in Bosnia said Bosnia's hope for full integration into Europe hinges on the arrest and prosecution of Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic. The United States has offered a five million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest of the two, who head the list of suspects wanted by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.

In his remarks to the Security Council, Mr. Ashdown said Bosnia is close to being the first, historic success in the business of peace implementation. But he added that Bosnia's war cannot be brought to full closure until those who bear the guilt for the loss of 250,000 lives in Bosnia are brought to justice.