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German Ex-Minister Next UN High Representative for Bosnia

Germany's former postal service minister, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, is to succeed Britain's Paddy Ashdown as the international community's high representative in Bosnia, officials announced Wednesday.

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Schwarz-Schilling starts work in Bosnia and Herzegovina in January

Schwarz-Schilling, 75, is to take up his new functions at the end of January, according to a statement issued following a meeting in Paris of the international council overseeing the peace process in Bosnia.

"The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council, meeting in Paris today, formally approved the nomination of Christian Schwarz-Schilling as the next High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina," the statement said.

The council said it "looks forward to working with Schwarz-Schilling when he takes up his duties as High Representative on Jan. 31, 2006."

Representatives from some 15 countries and international organisations, who make up the Peace Implementation Council, gathered in Paris to mark the 10th anniversary of the formal signature of the Dayton peace accords.

Resig n atio n over Germa n Balka n policy

Schwarz-Schilling, who served as postal minister from 1982 to 1992, is a Balkans expert who has been acting as an international mediator in the troubled region since 1995.

He resigned from former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government in 1992, after the start of the Balkan wars, in protest over Germany's policy towards the region.

Trauer um Opfer des Balkankriegs nahe Srebrenica p178

Mourning the dead

Bosnia's 1992-1995 war left more than 200,000 people dead and half of Bosnia's population uprooted from their homes.

The Dayton accords marking the end of the war were agreed on Nov. 21, 1995 in the United States and formally signed in Paris on Dec. 14.

The agreement split Bosnia into two political entities -- the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska -- each with its own government and parliament. The two are linked by weak central institutions.

Calls for moder n izatio n

There have been mounting international calls for the system set up under the peace agreement to be modernized, with reforms to boost the powers of the central government.

Washington in particular would also like to do away with the tri-partite presidency -- representing the country's Muslim, Serb and Croat communities -- to unite the country under one head of state.

Ashdown, a former leader of Britain's Liberal Democrat party, has served as high representative in Bosnia since 2002.

The peace council paid tribute to his work, saying he had overseen "sweeping political, economic and administrative reforms" that have helped prepare Bosnia for European Union membership. It singled out his work on police, defence, fiscal and judicial reform.

Paddy Ashdown - britischer Politiker. Hoher Repräsentant für Bosnien-Herzegowina

Paddy Ashdown

Ashdown has made wide use of the considerable powers conferred to him by the Dayton peace agreement.

Earlier this year he sacked the Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, Dragan Covic, who faced corruption charges.

In 2004 Ashdown sacked 60 Bosnian Serb officials, including the president of the main Bosnian Serb Party, and interior minister for failing to arrest suspects indicted by the UN war crimes court, notably Radovan Karadzic.

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