Bosnian factions meet Bildt in centre of Sarajevo

(c) Copyright 1996


SARAJEVO - Prime Ministers representing Bosnia's three new post-war governments held "constructive and relaxed" talks with Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative, in Sarajevo on Wednesday.

The meeting marked the first time Moslem, Croat and Serb officials had gathered in the city proper since war erupted in Bosnia in April, 1992.

Attending Wednesday's meeting were Haris Silajdzic, outgoing Bosnian Prime Minister and his designated successor, Hasan Muratovic.

Also in attendance were prime ministers from two governments subsidiary to the republic: a Moslem-Croat federation administering 51 percent of Bosnia and a Serb republic controlling the rest of the country.

Izudin Kapetanovic represented the federation as Prime Minister-designate and Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic came to Sarajevo for the Serb republic.

Bildt said the venue was important both symbolically and substantively because it indicated the former warring factions were now at peace and that freedom of movement was ensured across the country.

In remarks broadcast on television after the talks finished, Silajdzic said: "The meeting...took place in a relatively relaxed atmosphere, probably because all the participants tried to ensure that it went ahead without any major problems, and probably because we did not go into details, apart from a few things, such as the missing persons, prisoners, etc...

"All in all, it was a constructive meeting, it was a good thing it took place and that such a provision (to hold these meetings) was envisaged by the Dayton Agreement."

Kasagic said on television he also was pleased with the meeting and rapprochement, the establishment of communications and the start of better activities were future priorities.

"The war is behind us, the war is over. We must now build the bridges of peace," Kasagic said.

Bosnian Serb reporters covered the meeting, also passing across former front lines into the city for the first time since the war.

In wartime, gatherings of the three sides were held on U.N.- controlled neutral territory at the city airport.

Bildt said the forum discussed a need for a broad amnesty in both the federation and the Serb republic to cement peace.

The officials also considered changes necessary to bring the constitutions of the two subsidiary governments into line with the constitution of the Bosnian republic, Bildt reported.

The High representative told reporters the group had also agreed to form a working group to cooperate on sorting out radio and television frequencies and sharing transmission facilities in light of this year's mandated elections.

"It is extremely important as we are going to face elections across Bosnia-Herzegovina that there is access to radio and television...throughout the territory," Bildt said.

The former Swedish Prime Minister, serving as the international community's top civilian representative in Bosnia, said he had laid down the law on the need for the immediate release of prisoners of war.

The Paris peace accord signed in December required all three sides to release their prisoners of war not later than January 19th. The factions have released some, but not all of those they hold, in violation of the agreement.

"The peace agreement is there to be implemented and I'm going to be very strict when it comes to that," Bildt warned.

"We cannot do changes in one respect and expect other parts to be adhered to."