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U.S., British Say Bosnia Deadline Firm

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 5, 1997 – Bosnian officials should not take NATO's stabilization forces for granted, according to Great Britain's new defense minister.

Appearing at a June 3 Pentagon press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, British Defense Minister George Robertson said he made that point very publicly in Bosnia two weeks ago.

"[NATO] went into Bosnia together," he said. "We're staying in together, and we will leave together. That is a message they must not misunderstand."

NATO's deadline for ending the stabilization force mission is June 1998. Robertson and Cohen both said this deadline will be met.

The defense leaders spoke with reporters following their first meeting since Robertson took office last month. Both said the military mission in Bosnia is on schedule, but civilian aspects of the Dayton accord are lagging behind.

"NATO, and the troops of a large number of other countries, including Russia, has been hugely successful in producing a period of stability and an end to the fighting, which surely the political leadership in that part of the world would want to exploit," Robertson said. "But there is a civilian side to Dayton which should be delivered as well. Not enough is being done, and it is up to the Bosnian leadership collectively to do much more about it."

Civilian authorities need to form an international police force, help refugees resettle, provide capital to rebuild infrastructure, reopen civilian airports and restore a single currency, the defense leaders said. They must also bring war criminals to justice.

"We must be much more energetic in the international community of putting pressure on for the civilian aspects to take place," Robertson said. "The world community is looking for much more progress from the Bosnian political leadership than they're seeing at the moment."

Cohen said these elements of the Dayton Accord should be pursued with as much vigor as possible and that's where NATO's emphasis will lie in the time remaining.

"I think it's wrong to focus on June 1998 when there is so much to be done at the present moment, building on the progress that's already been made, and on what we might all to do contribute to it," Cohen said.

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