By Melissa Eddy

eTaiwan News
Associated Press
2010-02-03 05:54 AM

The top U.S. intelligence official warned Tuesday that persistent
ethnic tensions in Bosnia pose the biggest challenge to maintaining
stability in Europe.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said in written
testimony to lawmakers that animosities among the Balkan nation's
Croat, Muslim and Serb factions are on the rise, and a hardening of
their divergent agendas could threaten the stability of the fragile

Blair further named Russia's continued efforts to exercise influence
over its former Soviet neighbors, particularly Georgia, as another
cause for concern, saying it could pose a threat to relations with
Washington. He noted that "sporadic low-level violence" continues in
the region, which could spark a return to fighting. Russia and Georgia
fought a brief war in August 2008 over two breakaway Georgia regions.

Fighting also could flare between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the
disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Blair said. The enclave in
Azerbaijan has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since
a six-year conflict that killed about 30,000 people and displaced 1
million before a truce was reached in 1994.

Bosnia remains divided into ethnic ministates _ a Serb republic and
a Muslim-Croat federation _ that were established in 1995 under the
Dayton agreement that ended a bitter 3 1/2-year civil war. It is
under the leadership of a multiethnic government whose leaders clash
regularly over what the country should look like.

Blair said Bosnian Serbs has been reversing some of the changes
included in the accord as part of efforts to seek more autonomy
for their ministate. This, Blair said "is contributing to growing
interethnic tensions." At the same time the Bosnian Muslims and Croats
want to abolish the country's division so it can progress toward EU
membership, Blair said.

"While neither widespread violence nor a formal breakup of the state
appears imminent, ethnic agendas still dominate the political process,
and reforms have stalled because of wrangling among the three main
ethnic groups," Blair said.

Kosovo, whose Serb minority and ethnic Albanian majority remain at a
tense standoff over the still-divided northern sector, also requires
continuing US and European attention to maintain stability, Blair said.