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Bosnian Leaders Strike Unifying Agreement

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Bosnian Leaders Strike Unifying Agreement


Bosnian Leaders Strike Unifying Agreement

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Ten years after the peace agreement that ended a brutal civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, there is news of new political progress there. Leaders of the three major ethnic groups have agreed to rewrite the constitution to make the country more united. The deal was announced today at the State Department in Washington, as the Bush administration makes a new diplomatic push in the Balkans. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice managed to mix the anniversary celebration with business. At a luncheon, she praised the European and Clinton administration officials on hand for negotiating the Dayton Accord that ended the war. But she said it's time for Bosnia-Herzegovina to move beyond the Dayton framework.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (State Department): A weak, divided state was appropriate in 1995. But today, in 2005, the country needs a stronger, energetic state capable of advancing the public good and securing the national interest.

KELEMEN: So she announced that Bosnian Muslim, Serb and Croat leaders signed a commitment today to embark on constitutional reforms by March of next year. She also praised the Bosnian Serb leadership for issuing a separate statement calling on indicted war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic to turn themselves in. Secretary Rice said Bosnia must confront the demons of its past.

Sec. RICE: These are encouraging words, and now they must lead to serious action. There can be no more excuses and no more delays. Ten years is long enough.

KELEMEN: Among those attending the 10th anniversary celebrations was Richard Holbrooke, an architect of the Dayton Accord. He's encouraged to see the Bush administration re-engaging in the Balkans after what he calls years of neglect. Holbrooke agrees it's time to move beyond Dayton, saying there were mistakes that needed to be fixed.

Former Ambassador RICHARD HOLBROOKE (Dayton Accord Architect): The three armies were a mistake; it's well on its way to fixing. Ethnically based police were a mistake; that's also on its way to being fixed. The central government is too weak, and that's what's at issue here. And finally, on the list of mistakes, the three presidents.

KELEMEN: Holbrooke was speaking at a conference organized by the US Institute of Peace, where the man who's been running Bosnia on behalf of the United Nations also had some advice. Paddy Ashdown said Bosnians need to streamline their government.

Mr. PADDY ASHDOWN (UN Administrator in Bosnia): Do please not have in mind the political scientists' case for constitutional change. This is unimportant. Have in mind what you can do to make the state more functional, to deliver services to your citizens.

KELEMEN: The top international administrator of Bosnia said politicians there spend too much on themselves and citizens are left with bad hospitals, a poor education system and low pensions. Ashdown says while the Dayton agreement kept the peace, he believes the potential for European Union membership will provide what he calls `the magnetic pull' and will encourage reform. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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