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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Bosnians warned to shun nationalism
Javier Solana, Paddy Ashdown
Solana and Ashdown have made their preferences clear
Leading international figures involved in efforts to stabilise Bosnia have called on voters not to choose nationalists in elections on Saturday.


In the next four years... the future of this region will be decided - Slovenia will be in Europe, Croatia will be at the gates of Europe. Where will Bosnia-Hercegovina be?

Paddy Ashdown
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, urged them to opt for Europe - as he put it - rather than stagnation.

The international High Representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, said the next four years would decide the fate of the region.

He said that by the next elections, Slovenia would be in the EU, and Croatia at its gates - and that Saturday's election would decide where Bosnia would be then.

Ghosts

The vote on Saturday will be a major test for a reformist, Western-backed grouping that gained a majority in the central parliament after the 2000 elections and a decade of rule by nationalists.

Radovan Karadzic
Radovan Karadzic still has clout in Republika Srpska

They have taken Bosnia into the Council of Europe, and breathed new life into collapsing state institutions, but failed to create badly needed jobs.

Voters will elect deputies to the central parliament and the assemblies of its two independent post-war entities - the Serbs' Republika Srpska, and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

They will also choose members of the country's tripartite presidency - made up of one Croat, one Muslim and a Serb.

Correspondents say the international community is increasingly concerned that hardliners may be heading for victory in each community.

Debt and corruption

In Republika Srpska, wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect, continues to wield strong influence on the political scene.

Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic's Party of Democratic Progress currently governs there with a nationalist party, the Serb Democratic Party.

Earlier this week, Mr Ashdown said that unless voters ignored the "hoary old ghosts of the past", the country would be "crippled by debt, shunned by investors, abandoned by the young, undermined by corruption and condemned to a period of seemingly unending international oversight."

For his part, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a televised address to the people of Bosnia that a vote for reformers would "push Bosnia forward" towards Europe.

The only alternative, he warned, was to "once again go down the dark and dangerous path of ethnic divisions, economic stagnation and international isolation".

See also:

15 Jul 02 | Europe
27 Aug 02 | Europe
01 Jul 02 | Europe
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