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Annan to Honor UN Workers, Stress Reconciliation in Bosnia - 2002-11-17

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina as the United Nations prepares to end its decade-long presence there. During Mr. Annan's four-day visit he will stress reconciliation and will honor U.N. workers who died in the ethnic strife.

Mr. Annan is visiting parts of the former Yugoslav republic where the organization had some of its darkest moments in the mid-1990s.

Among the perceived U.N. mistakes was its failure to prevent a 1995 massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which became known as Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed by Serb forces in what was supposed to be a U.N.-safe zone after an outnumbered and outgunned Dutch U.N. contingent fled its post.

Yet after that war ended in 1995, the United Nations was able to mark up some notable successes in the Balkans. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the backing of tens-of-thousands of NATO troops, it oversaw the creation and training of what has been described as the most effective and best multi-ethnic police force in the Balkans.

The U.N. operation in Serbia's Kosovo Province will continue after other activities in the Balkans close down at the end of the year.

During his visit, Mr. Annan will unveil a memorial honoring U.N. personnel who lost their lives serving in the former Yugoslavia.

Some Balkan officials have mixed feelings about the U.N. pullout. They are concerned that some U.N. policing activities to limit traffic in illegal immigrants and prostitution might suffer when U.N. forces leave and the European Union takes over.

In his talks with Bosnian officials, Mr. Annan is expected to stress the need to cooperate with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. He will be meeting with the court's Chief War Crimes Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, on Wednesday in Belgrade.

Mr. Annan has made clear there is a need to arrest those suspected of committing atrocities during the conflict in which an estimated 200,000 people died.

He will have a similar message to leaders in other ethnically-volatile regions of the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbia, and Croatia.

Tuesday the secretary general travels to the divided Kosovo city of Mitrovica, where he will reinforce support for a U.N. plan to link Serbs and Albanians in a municipal government.

He will also travel to Serbia and Croatia, where he will urge leaders to try to resolve the Prevlaka Peninsula border dispute.