U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, visiting Sarajevo Saturday, reaffirmed U.S. support for Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, he said progress toward that country's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions is being slowed, because Balkans war crimes figures remain at large.
Mr. Powell met the three members of the Bosnian presidency and other officials in a visit intended to underscore the continuing U.S. commitment to the Balkan country as the NATO peacekeeping force here prepares to give way to a European Union force at the end of the year.
But he made clear in the meetings and a news conference here that Bosnia's hopes of full integration into European institutions and NATO are being held back by the failure to apprehend indicted Balkans war crimes figures including the former leader of the Bosnian-Serb republic, Radovan Karadzic.
"The United States wants to see Bosnia in the Partnership for Peace and eventually NATO," he said. "But the requirement to meet your commitments, Bosnia's commitments, regarding cooperation with the tribunal is absolutely essential. Fulfilling Bosnia's commitments means not just saying the right words, but delivering results and bringing those indicted for war crimes and especially that means Radovan Karadzic."
The Secretary of State said those harboring Mr. Karadzic and others indicted by the Balkans war crimes tribunal including the former Bosnian-Serb military chief Ratko Mladic are holding Bosnia's political future at risk.
At its summit a month ago in Istanbul, NATO again turned down Bosnia's application for the alliance's Partnership for Peace, citing obstructionist elements in the Bosnian-Serb entity who are resisting the handover of the key war crimes figures.
At the same time, the Secretary said the United States remains optimistic about the political and reform process in Bosnia-Herzegovina and will remain fully engaged with it. He noted that despite the pending handover of peacekeeping duties from NATO to the EU, the alliance will continue to have a mission in Sarajevo headed by an American general which will assist in military reforms and the process of apprehending war crimes suspects.
In the visit lasting little more than four hours, Mr. Powell also met with the U.N. high representative for Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown.