U.N. extends EU-force in Bosnia after Russia, China appeased

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday unanimously extended its authorization of an EU-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina for another year, but removed any mention of the office an international peace envoy to win support from Russia and China.

Russia and China do not recognize the Office of the High Representative, which oversees the implementation of a 1995 Bosnia peace accord. They failed in July to strip some powers from the role and shut down the office in a year.

In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Christian Schmidt, a former German minister who took up the role as high representative in August, warned that Bosnia-Herzegovina was facing the greatest threat to its existence since the war.

Schmidt did not brief the council on Wednesday in what diplomats described as another move to placate Russia and China and ensure their support for the resolution to renew the 600-strong EUFOR peacekeeping operation.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused western colleagues of a "dismissive attitude" towards Bosnia-Herzegovina's sovereignty. There was a "lack of desire to step outside of the image of a guardian of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has a right to dictate to the Bosnians how they are to build their state and how they are to govern their country," he said.

The Dayton peace accords ended the 1992-95 war among Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks by splitting the country along ethnic lines into two autonomous regions - the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and the Federation shared by Croats and Bosniaks.

But Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who advocates the secession of the Serb-dominated region, said last month that the Serb Republic leadership would soon take measures aimed at unravelling key institutions of the Bosnian state.

"With increasing frequency, Dodik is talking about the Republika Srpska's possible withdrawal from Bosnia and Herzegovina entirely," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council.

"This is a dangerous path, both for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also for the wider Western Balkan region," she said, adding that Schmidt's role must be protected because the "office serves as a foundation of stability for the country."

The nationalist Serb region, backed by Russia, has long requested the shutdown of the Office of the High Representative, which was set up as part of the 1995 peace deal.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Richard Pullin)