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Ashdown: Karadzic's Bosnia could be recipe for blood

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Yesterday, a shorn and shaven Radovan Karadzic faced his first day in court at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The Karadzic arrest has been hailed as a pivotal turning point in Serbia's path to EU cooperation and accession. But although Karadzic was captured in Serbia, his crimes were in creating the ethnically divided state that is Bosnia. And in Bosnia today, the story remains less than comforting.

In a compelling call for a revitalization of international efforts in the still-fractured country, Paddy Ashdown, former head of the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, explains:

Bosnia's predominantly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, Karadzic's creation, has seen the vacuum where will and policy should be. Its premier, Milorad Dodik, is now aggressively reversing a decade of reforms. He has set up the parallel institutions and sent delegations to Montenegro to find out how they broke away….

Meanwhile, in European capitals the growing view goes like this. We invested 13 years of hard work and huge resource in Bosnia. Now it is stable and peaceful and we are rather tired. Kosovo has proved it is possible to divide a country. What matter if Bosnia becomes another Cyprus?…

This is folly of a very dangerous order. What happens to the Muslim populations who have moved back to Republika Srpska, even to Srebrenica, if they are handed back to an exclusively Serb-dominated regime? What happens to Bosnia's shining star, the multi-ethnic, markedly successful sub-entity of Brcko, hemmed in by Republika Srpska? Is it to be handed over, too? I do not believe Bosnia is likely to go back to conflict; most of its people are just too war-weary. But the one event that could change that calculation in favour of blood would be to return to the old Karadzic/Milosevic plan to divide Bosnia.

But minus those few returnees and that one "shining star," Bosnia is divided, functioning largely as two separate, ethnically split states. Yes, it's a sad fact -- one that U.N. peacekeepers allowed to materialize between 1992 and 1995, and one that any international efforts will be hard pressed to undo.

It's no wonder the celebration over Karadzic's arrest in Bosnia has been short-lived. For as Bosnian novelist Aleksandar Hemon concludes in an excellent NYT op-ed, "Justice is good, but a peaceful life would have been much better."

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Photo: China's National Stadium at night

I have to admit, the Bird's Nest looks pretty cool all lit up at night:

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