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SACEUR Says Resettlement Progress Evident

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MONS, Belgium, Jan. 28, 1998 – Resistance to refugee returns in Bosnia is decreasing, and resettlement progress is evident, NATO's top military leader said here Jan. 27.

There are signs the old systems are beginning to crack and the old rulers who enforced ethnic separatism are losing sway, said U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, supreme allied commander Europe, returning from a visit to Mostar and Stolac. The international community is successfully brokering the resettlement effort, he said.

"I was very impressed by the progress that's being made in refugee returns," Clark said. "People are coming back. People at the local level are beginning to accept the return of individuals who previously lived there."

Of the estimated 2 million Bosnians displaced by the war, more than 350,000 have returned, according to NATO statistics. Most are members of majority factions, but there have also been about 20,000 minority returns, Clark noted, including several thousand in each of the multinational division sectors.

Minority faction members are returning even in places that were nominally hardline, Clark said. "In Stolac, we saw a number of Muslim returnees who are going back and rehabilitating their homes. It was an encouraging sign."

Based on his weekly visits to Bosnia, Clark said military tasks outlined in the Dayton accord and support for civilian implementation are "very much on course."

"I'm very upbeat about what I've seen down there," he said. "People are taking their responsiblities seriously and moving ahead with the obligations undertaken at Dayton.

"It's important to recognize that the solution to the problem in Bosnia-Herzegovina is inherently and inevitably political. These people have to get along with each other. It's one economic unit. It's one unit that's coexisted and lived together for centuries, largely in peace. I'm confident it will do so again."

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