Dayton Promises

Called back into diplomatic service from private life, special envoy Richard Holbrooke pulled another rabbit out of the hat last week - getting Bosnian Serb "President" Radovan Karadzic to quit political office.

Mr. Karadzic had already turned his presidential duties over to a deputy, but refused to step down as head of the hard-line Serb Democratic Party, the largest in Serb-held areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Karadzic's departure, which was called for in the Dayton accords, was crucial: Had he stayed on the scene, the Bosnian Muslim-led government would have refused to participate in the Sept. 14 elections across the war-torn country.

Whether Karadzic will honor his word, given to Mr. Holbrooke during meetings with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, remains to be seen. Holbrooke reminded Serbia that renewed international sanctions are possible if Karadzic doesn't do what he promised. Smooth sailing for the elections is far from ensured - for one thing, the men taking Karadzic's place are just as hard-line as he is and just as willing to obstruct implementation of the Dayton accords.

Mr. Milosevic still hasn't met his Dayton commitment to turn over indicted war criminals, including Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, to the International War-Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Either he doesn't intend to do so or is afraid of the political and human costs of a military assault on the men and their many bodyguards.

The second problem worries NATO too. But if justice is to be done in Bosnia, and if the international community is to make clear that nationalistic mass murder is intolerable, the NATO-led IFOR peacekeeping force may have no choice but to arrest the two itself. Each day Milosevic doesn't act brings that tough decision closer.

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