Bosnia's Serbian region to hold elections U.S. prevails in dispute with Russia, which tried to block the vote

October 20, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

VIENNA, Austria -- With a combination of deft diplomacy and superpower might, the Clinton administration has vanquished Russia's attempt to block parliamentary elections in the Serbian region of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"There will be an election on the 23rd of November," a senior Clinton administration official said, emphatically and triumphantly.

A parliamentary election is a critical part of a struggle by relative moderates in the part of Bosnia controlled by Serbs, led by President Biljana Plavsic, to wrest power from Serbian hard-liners, led by Radovan Karadzic, the wartime leader who has been indicted on war-crimes charges. The war between the political factions has included battles over control of the airwaves and police stations, with NATO forces frequently intervening in recent days on Plavsic's behalf.

But diplomats said yesterday that anxieties remain about whether the elections can be carried out without violence. And the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which will oversee the process, feels that it is being pushed into an election that will cost at least $10 million without adequate thought being given to the risks.

The organization's major concern is whether the hard-line Bosnian Serbs will cooperate.

"When the big boys tell you to do something, you have no choice," said a senior European diplomat with the organization, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Serbian-controlled area of Bosnia is one of the two official entities that make up the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina; the other is the federation of Muslims and Croats. The Bosnian Serb entity has its own Parliament and executive branch.

Since the former Yugoslavia began to disintegrate along ethnic lines in 1991, Russia has been a steadfast friend of the Serbs, sharing the Orthodox Christian faith and the Cyrillic alphabet. Moscow's alignment with the Serbian hard-liners arises largely out of its loyalty to Slobodan Milosevic, a former Communist who is president of Yugoslavia, which consists of Serbia and Montenegro. Milosevic prefers Karadzic to Plavsic.

The United States pressed its views on the election during weeks of tough back-room diplomacy. Making little progress, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright took up the matter this month directly with her Russian counterpart, Yevgeny Primakov, U.S. officials said.

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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