|Updated: 02-Apr-2003||NATO Press Releases|
(2003)035 2 April 2003
by the NATO Secretary General
I welcome today's decision by Mr Mirko Sarovic, to step down from the Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH) Presidency. As the representative for Republika Srpska (RS), it was the only possible course of action he could take given his political responsibility for the export of illegal arms to Iraq by the RS-based company VZ Orao. The international investigations into the affair leave no doubt whatsoever of President Sarovic's responsibility for these actions.
The evasive and obstructive behaviour of the RS authorities have also required the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lord Ashdown, to take a number of other decisive measures to strengthen civilian and state level control in the Federation and the RS, which I fully support.
Added to all this is the evidence SFOR has uncovered of an active policy of aggressive intelligence operations by the RS against the international community. This is blatant and unacceptable defiance of the RS authorities’ obligations under the Dayton Agreement, as well as contravention of SFOR's instructions, and fully justifies the far-reaching reforms being announced by Lord Ashdown.
The behaviour of President Sarovic and others was not only wrong but represents the mindset of people who are still living in the past. Illegal exports to Iraq, in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, diminish the standing of the RS and BiH in the international community, and intelligence operations against international organisations are a waste of scarce resources needed for economic recovery and defence reform.
The people of Republika Srpska in particular deserve much better from their elected representatives, and President Sarovic's successor must look to the future and learn the lesson of recent events.
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