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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 22:35 GMT
Peace role for Ashdown in Bosnia
Lord Ashdown
Ashdown wants "full statehood" for the republic
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown is the international community's new high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

He begins a two-year stint as the most senior civilian working for the peace implementation council in the former Yugoslav republic in May.


I have had a long interest in and deep affection for Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people

Lord Ashdown
The former MP for Yeovil, who replaces Wolfgang Petritsch, will be based in Sarajevo.

He will have final responsibility for implementing the terms of the Dayton peace accord signed by the warring factions in December 1995.

Challenges

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Charles Kennedy, the man that succeeded Lord Ashdown as leader of the Liberal Democrats, were among the first to congratulate him

The peer, the agreed EU candidate for the job, first visited Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in 1992.

Advised by the peace implementation council, Lord Ashdown will have the power to dismiss officials who obstruct the completion of the Dayton process and to impose legislation where necessary.

Paddy and Jane Ashdown
The Ashdowns are swapping Yeovil for Sarajevo

Lord Ashdown said that despite the challenges of his new job, he was looking forward to starting.

"I have had a long interest in and deep affection for Bosnia and Herzegovina and its people," he said.

His aim over the two years was to work "with the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to move the country forward towards full statehood within Europe", he said.

British support

The job was first offered to Lord Ashdown in 1998 while he was still an MP but he said at the time he could not take up the post until finishing his parliamentary duties.

Lord Ashdown will be joined in Sarajevo by his wife Jane.

Mr Straw said: "I am delighted that Paddy Ashdown has now been officially nominated by the peace implementation council as the next high representative."

The foreign secretary praised Lord Ashdown's "long-standing commitment to and considerable knowledge of the region" and offered him the full support of the British Government.

Mr Kennedy also wished Mr Ashdown every success in the role.

"Paddy's expertise and long interest in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be invaluable in this challenging and important role," he said.

"All in the Liberal Democrats send their best wishes."

See also:

04 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Ashdown candidate for UN Bosnia job
06 Feb 02 | Europe
Petritsch upbeat on Bosnia future
25 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Ashdown 'bids farewell'
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