February 27, 2007 / 8:25 PM / 13 years ago

Bosnia peace overlord's role extended until 2008

BRUSSELS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The powerful role of Bosnia’s peace overseer was extended for a year from July due to concerns about the political stability of the Balkan state, the outgoing holder of the post Christian Schwarz-Schilling said on Tuesday.

Separately, the European Union adopted plans to cut its 6,000-strong peace force in Bosnia to 2,500 by June, EU officials said, saying they had few concerns about security.

Bosnia’s Peace Implementation Council (PIC) agreed to extend the mandate of the international high representative despite Russia’s opposition, Schwarz-Schilling told a news conference.

The office, created to oversee implementation of the Dayton peace accord ending the 1992-95 war, has powers to sack officials and impose laws. It had been due for abolition on June 30 following full transition to the Bosnian government.

"Politically, however, the authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina have yet to rise to the challenge of ownership, and additionally the regional situation remains potentially volatile," Schwarz-Schilling said, referring to an imminent decision on the status of neighbouring Serbia’s breakaway province of Kosovo.

"Under such circumstances, maintaining the (high representative) is both the most prudent and responsible situation for now," said the former German minister, who will step down on June 30. His successor has not been named.

Bosnian Prime Minister Nikola Spiric said he was not opposed to the extension of the mandate as such, but it might limit the incentive for dialogue and compromise in his country.

"Why should anyone participate in dialogue when they know someone can simply impose a solution?" he told reporters, referring to the international pro-consul’s powers.

The PIC includes Balkan, EU and Middle Eastern states as well as the United States and Canada.

Bosnian leaders failed last week to break a year-long deadlock over unification of police forces, a condition for establishing closer ties with the European Union. (additional reporting by Mark John)

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