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US, UN Envoys Urge Bosnian Government Reform

The United States Friday joined the U.N. High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina in urging Bosnian political leaders to press forward with political reforms. The U.N. administrator, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, hopes to be able to close down his mission in Sarajevo next year.

The United States is backing the U.N. high representative in pushing for political reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina aimed at putting the Balkan country on the road to full independence and integration with the rest of Europe.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns held talks here with Schwarz-Schilling, a former German cabinet member making his first visit to Washington since taking up the U.N. post in February, replacing Britain's Paddy Ashdown.

The Bosnian parliament now has before it draft constitutional reforms, including a provision for a single executive to replace the current three-member presidency that rotates among the country's Muslim, ethnic-Serb and Croat communities.

At a photo session with Schwarz-Schilling, Undersecretary Burns said the rotation scheme was intended only as a temporary measure under the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the Bosnian conflict. He said the reforms would provide political normalcy and allow the U.N. envoy to yield administrative power. "This is a big step forward. It's an opportunity and we were encouraged by the vote this week to proceed to the parliament for final approval of the constitutional reform. And we urge the members of the parliament, whether they be Bosniac or Croat or Serbs, to think of the future of their country and to vote for a reform that will create one president, not three, and one single set of institutions to guide the country," he said.

In his first report to the U.N. Security Council earlier this week, Schwarz-Shilling said he expects to be the last U.N. High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and to be able to close his office by the middle of 2007.

He told reporters here this will depend on the readiness of the country's people to take responsibility for political reforms and assume "ownership" of the country. But he also said the process will require continued intensive engagement by the United States and Europe. "I must say that we are in a crucial year, and I think that the cooperation between the United States and Europe in this area is one of the basic preconditions to come to a success in this area. And the main priorities are the constitutional reform, and I think we had a very good way to assist each other and to convince the people. It's more to do it by convincing them than to make interventions. And I think this is a new era, a new face in this whole process, and I am dedicated to that era and think we're coming to good successes," he said.

Schwarz-Schilling said in addition to the political reforms, his other priorities for the country are successful elections in September, boosting the economy and easing visa restrictions for European travel by Bosnians, and improving the country's educational system, which he said is key to assuring peace for the next generation.

The U.N. representative in Bosnia currently has the right to intervene in disputes and fire government officials if necessary to assure that the Dayton accords are followed.

Schwarz-Schilling says that after he departs, a European Union special representative will establish an office in Sarajevo but without the high representative's powers