Bosnia Needs West Until Kosovo Settled: Holbrooke.

The West will be making a terrible mistake if it leaves Bosnia before the ripples have settled from Serbia’s Kosovo province becoming independent, U.S. ex-envoy Richard Holbrooke said on Nov. 22.

Kosovo, run by the United Nations since NATO expelled Serb troops in 1999, is widely expected to get some form of independence next year as its ethnic Albanian majority demands.

"It will be a terrible mistake to change structures in Bosnia before something that might be a very difficult period in Kosovo is overcome," the former U.S. diplomat told Dnevni Avaz daily in an interview.

Many in the Serb Republic, one of Bosnia’s two autonomous parts along with the Muslim-Croat federation, regard Kosovo as a precedent for them to hold a secession referendum.

Holbrooke was the architect of the Dayton peace agreement that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war by dividing the country between its warring ethnic groups. He said the international community had to stay in Bosnia to stop the Serb Republic splitting away.

"The withdrawal of the U.S. troops and reduced engagement of my country in Bosnia is a terrible mistake. So is the talk about the closure of the OHR (the Office of the international High Representative in Bosnia)," he said.

The office of the international peace overseer is set to close down in mid-2007 and be succeeded by a lighter EU representative body.

"It’s not the time for anyone to play with the existing structures in Bosnia," Holbrooke said. He had asked the holder, German diplomat Christian Schwarz-Schilling, to keep his office open until Kosovo’s position was settled, he said.

[Source: Reuters, Sarajevo, 22Nov06]

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