Ashdown dismisses Bosnian Serb officials for blocking path to NATO
Deutsche Presse-Agentur - June 30, 2004, Wednesday

SARAJEVO - The international community's high representative to Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, dismissed 60 high ranking Bosnian Serb officials Wednesday for blocking the country's path into the NATO Partnership for Peace Programme.

Officials removed from their posts included the National Assembly speaker and leader of the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS) Dragan Kalinic and Interior Minister Dragan Djeric. Kalinic, a close friend of wanted Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic, was sanctioned because he failed to ensure that SDS money did not go to support Karadzic evade justice. Djeric was fired because of the failure of Bosnian Serb police to arrest war crimes suspects who are still at large nine years after the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ashdown said.

He also froze all of SDS's financial assets and bank accounts, and ordered that one million convertible marks (500,000 euro) belonging to SDS should be donated to three Bosnian state institutions responsible for hunting wanted war criminals.

The mass dismissal follows threats by Ashdown Tuesday to sanction Bosnian Serb authorities after NATO leaders meeting in Istanbul failed to issue an invitation for Bosnia to join the Partnership for Peace. "Bosnia-Herzegovina has not been invited to join Partnership for Peace because of its failure to meet its international obligations towards the (Hague-based) International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and will not be (invited) until this is corrected," said Ashdown.

The ICTY requires Bosnia to apprehend Karadzic and his former army commander General Ratko Mladic before the country can progress further towards NATO. Ashdown said Tuesday that the dismissals and sanctions should encourage those who have information and the ability to help ICTY in catching fugitives to do so. Bosnia's membership in the Partnership for Peace and later in NATO would be the best guarantee of long-term peace and stability for the country, Ashdown said.

SECTION: Politics - 12:26:30 Central European Time
Copyright 2004 Deutsche Presse-Agentur