Bosnia and Herzegovina:Get Off Our Backs 5686-bosnia-and-herzegovinaget-off-our-backsBosnia and Herzegovina:Get Off Our Backs15 January 1999 Allegations about widespread corruption among Bosnia's rulers made by Richard Sklar in an interview with Sarajevo-based OBN TV on 23 November sparked an angry reaction. The U.S. ambassador for the reform of the United Nations and former special envoy to Bosnia, said Bosnian political leaders allowed and often profited from illegal activities, and that bribery was prevalent. For example, all cigarettes were smuggled into Bosnia. They couldn't be smuggled in without the connivance of the highest levels of politicians in all areas, Sklar said. The one place we have ethnic cooperation is in the area of corruption, smuggling, and tax evasion. Bosnian presidency member Alija Izetbegovic, Council of Ministers Co-Chairman Haris Silajdzic, and Bosniak-Croat federation Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic sent a critical letter to Sklar the next day. In an interview with the Sarajevo daily Dnevni avaz on 26 November, Sklar said he had been misunderstood. I never said, nor do I believe, that President Izetbegovic is in any way corrupt. He is not that kind of man. ... Perhaps some politicians are corrupt, said Sklar. The letter, cited on Radio Bosnia and Herzegovina on 24 November, is excerpted here:

You pictured Bosnia and Herzegovina and its current leaders in a very bad light. Without making a single exception, you said all politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina are corrupt. That means all of them, without exception.

We do not believe that your honored president and your honored secretary of state, who sent you here, share this view. ...

Mr. Sklar, you insulted us gravely, and, more importantly, what you said is a lie. We are not thieves. And if we are not, then you cannot use the word all.

You are using political blackmail to speed up the execution of tasks expected of you. But you cannot blackmail us, because we do not have anything to hide. So, we call on you to publish a list of the corrupt politicians in Bosnia. We have asked you to do this once before. Instead of names, you are once more using blank accusations.

We are not afraid of you, Mr. Sklar. After everything we have been through, we only fear God. Please publish the names of the corrupt politicians in Bosnia. Publish them or get off our backs.

Translation provided by BBC Monitoring.

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