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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Calls Talks to Save Dayton Pact

SARAJEVO -- Washington called the leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia to a crisis summit in a bid to stop the Bosnian peace process unravelling but the hastily arranged meeting suffered a delay almost as quickly as it was announced.


The Rome talks were put back a day to Saturday and Sunday less than 24 hours after their formal announcement.


The meeting is to be chaired by the European Union, Russia and the United States and hosted by current EU president Italy.


U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said it was "agreed as a means to underscore the commitment of all parties to full compliance" with the Washington-mediated peace accords reached at Dayton, Ohio, last November.


The conference has been called at a time when the Dayton deal, which ended Europe's worst conflict since World War II, has begun to fray badly over war crimes, prisoners and other issues.


The Italian foreign ministry gave no immediate reason when it announced Thursday that the meeting would be delayed. A spokesman said that a Friday start had been a target but never definite.


The United States hammered out the peace agreement between presidents Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia, Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia during three weeks of intense "proximity talks" at an air force base in Dayton, Ohio.


This month, in what chief U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke called the sternest test so far for the pact, tensions have run high in the southern Bosnia town of Mostar, divided between Bosnian Moslems and Croats, and between Bosnian Serbs and the NATO peace force following the extradition of two Bosnian Serb army officers to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.


If the agreement collapses and turns out to have been no more than a temporary and very expensive ceasefire, there could be huge consequences for the major players on the international stage, diplomats and analysts say.


U.S. President Bill Clinton, who has taken a risk by sending troops to Bosnia as part of the 60,000-strong peace force, could see his chances of winning a second term in the White House badly damaged before November's presidential elections.


European allies, still smarting from charges that they were unable to resolve a conflict in their own backyard without U.S. help, would be further humiliated at a time when they are hoping to play a bigger role.


Failure would impose severe strain on transatlantic relations, which have barely had time to recover from the wounds inflicted during more than three years of war in Bosnia.


It would also put a fresh question mark over relations with Russia, which has been taking a tougher line with the West -- and especially NATO -- ahead of its own presidential elections in June.


NATO said Wednesday its contacts with Bosnian Serb commanders had broken down completely in the dispute over the detention of the two Serb army officers.


The Serb general and colonel, captured by the Bosnian government, were flown to a Dutch prison Monday for further investigation by the war crimes tribunal.


The Hague tribunal is considering whether to indict General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic and says the officers may be asked to give evidence in future prosecutions.