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OSCE warns it may force Bosnia to run own polls

SARAJEVO, Mar 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) Western peace coordinators warned on Friday they may impose a law making Bosnia responsible for running its elections, which the Balkan state's political leaders have been dragging their feet over.

Elections in post-war Bosnia have been run and funded since 1995 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which urged political parties to pass the law ahead of local elections on April 8 and general polls due in October.

The law, which the divided Bosnian parliament has twice refused even to discuss on grounds that it perpetuates ethnic division, is a condition for the Balkan country's admittance to the Council of Europe.

"Bosnia-Herzegovina needs to adopt the new election law...because without this adoption there is not a possibility for you to quickly have a membership in the Council of Europe," Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Fererro-Waldner told a news conference during a visit to Bosnia.

"We, the international community, expect you to do so, because otherwise it would have to be imposed again," she said.

"After five years (of peace since the 1992-1995 war ended), I think that it is important that the parliament here also starts to function as every other parliament. In the end, this is your own country. You have to take decisions," she said.

She said a decision on the exact date for the general polls would only be taken after the local elections.

Robert Barry, head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, warned that in addition to adopting the election law, Bosnia also needed to allocate budgetary funds for general elections.

"No money was set aside for elections in the budget of Bosnia and Herzegovina... The member-states of OSCE are not eager to go on paying the bills for the elections indefinitely," Barry said.

The election law was drafted by a group of international and local experts and envisages a Bosnian-wide administration running October's elections.

Moslem Bosnians Demonstrate In Support Of Chechnya

SARAJEVO, March 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of radical Bosnian Moslems demonstrated on Friday, the second day of the Eid al-Adha feast, in support of fellow Moslems in Russia's rebel region of Chechnya.

"Chechnya is the matter of all Moslems", "Islam will win, with God's help" read banners carried by members of the Active Islamic Youth organization in central Sarajevo.

Applause greeted an appeal by protest leader Adnan Pezo for Bosnian Moslems to arm and defend the people of Chechnya where Russia has been fighting a military campaign since last September to crush separatist guerrillas.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said last November that Russia had unconfirmed information that there were camps in Bosnia where Islamic "terrorists" were trained to fight in Chechnya.

The NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia said it was not aware of such camps.



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