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Europe gives new warning to Bosnia rivals

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(UNITED NATIONS) - European nations on Tuesday gave a new warning to Bosnia's rival ethnic leaders at the UN Security Council that their political conflict threatens the country's future.

The Balkan country has been in crisis since elections 13 months ago. Rival Bosnian Serb, Muslim and Croat leaders -- who were at war from 1992 to 1995 -- have been unable to form a central government.

The international high representative to Bosnia told the Security Council that "political stagnation and backsliding" threaten the Dayton-Paris peace accords which ended the war.

"Politicians show little willingness to compromise, avoid dialogue on crucial issues and regularly abuse the system," said Valentin Inzko, whose position was set up to guide Bosnia to democracy under the Dayton accords.

Germany, France, Britain and the United States all highlighted concerns over the rivalry between the different communities and the impact on Bosnia's aims to join the European Union and NATO.

Since the war that left almost 100,000 dead, Bosnia has been divided into the Bosnian Serb controlled Republika Srpska and Muslim-Croat Federation. Bosnian Serb leaders have been accused in particular of blocking moves to set up a central government and harbouring ambitions to set up their own state.

"The lack of a shared vision of the political leadership on the overall direction of the country is particularly worrisome," said Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig, calling on the bickering leaders to urgently form a government and tackle needed reforms.

France's deputy ambassador Martin Briens gave a similar message warning that failure to end the deadlock would be "to condemn themselves to turn their back on any European perspective."

France is "very worried and warns Bosnian leaders against any initiative which would contravene the Dayton-Paris accords and would constitute a threat to the stability and integrity of the country," he added.

Ivan Barbalic, Bosnia's UN ambassador and a Security Council member until the end of the year, insisted that despite the rivalry there were some "positive achievements" and stressed the calm security situation that has lasted several years.

Russia and Serbia criticised the international representative's report to the Council. Russia's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin accused Inzko of "highlighting negative aspects" and "seeking to justify his future existence."

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