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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Holbrooke Mission Ends With More Serb Pledges

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke closed his mission to Bosnia by winning a promise that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic would finally disappear from Bosnian politics and by giving Serbian leaders a grace period to remove him in order to avoid bloodshed.


Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serb member of the Bosnian presidency, "offered a unilateral undertaking" to fulfill a July 1996 agreement that the former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic had "shredded," Holbrooke said.


Speaking to reporters after more than eight hours of meetings Friday and Saturday with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Holbrooke said the United States would be watching to see whether Krajisnik kept his promise.


"Are we satisfied? Of course not. There has been no change on the American position -- indicted war criminals must be brought to justice," he said. Krajisnik is the most powerful man in the Bosnian Serb republic after Karadzic.


Sources close to the negotiations said Washington accepted the deal "in order to avoid the bloodshed" many fear would result if NATO-led troops moved to arrest Karadzic, who is guarded by hundreds of men.


One senior source said Holbrooke gave no time deadline for Krajisnik to fulfill his promise but noted it "would not be forever."


"We are still offering an easy way out. If the Bosnian Serbs do not accept it then we will use other effective means," the source said, noting that NATO commander General Wesley Clark was asked to join the talks with Krajisnik over the telephone.


Under a deal Holbrooke brokered last year with Milosevic and Krajisnik, Karadzic stepped down as Bosnian Serb president and was supposed to stay out of politics. But he has not, and still rules with an iron fist the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia, persistently circumventing the Dayton peace accords and undermining his successor as Bosnian Serb president, Biljana Plavsic.


Holbrooke said both Krajisnik and Milosevic acknowledged Karadzic's "flagrant" violations of last year's agreement and neither man attempted to plead extenuating circumstances.


"That was a unilateral offer from Krajisnik that we will watch carefully to see if it is implemented. We get nothing in return for this," he said, saying the United States is firm in its position that Karadzic should present himself to the tribunal in The Hague for trial.


"Therefore we received, I stress the word received, not accepted, the unilateral undertaking in the spirit in which it was given which was, in Krajisnik's words, an effort to show he was striving to implement Dayton."


Sources close to the negotiations said Holbrooke and Milosevic spent about 90 minutes alone, walking the sprawling grounds of the White Court palace Friday evening.