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The American official overseeing Bosnia's elections said Monday the longer Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic remains in power, the harder it becomes to hold elections and resurrect Bosnia.

"Every day that he is around, exercising any influence, he is violating the peace agreement," said Robert Frowick, who heads the Sarajevo office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which will oversee the fall elections.Frowick said "monumental difficulties," especially in freedom of movement and the media, and the guarantee of a secret ballot, continue to dog election preparations.

The Muslim-led Bosnian government supports elections by the Sept. 14 deadline in the Dayton peace accord, noted Bosnia government spokesman Mirza Hajric, but Karadzic and his military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic "have to go."

The skepticism followed Sunday talks in Geneva between Secretary of State Warren Christopher and the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. They stuck to September elections but failed to remove Karadzic as leader of the Bosnian Serbs.

Both Karadzic and Mladic have twice been indicted for genocide and war crimes, and under last year's Dayton pact were to step aside.

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said at a NATO meeting in Berlin Monday that both men "belong in front of the international court." The NATO-led peace force in Bosnia "is determined at least to limit their opportunities of movement," he added.

But it was not clear whether new orders had been issued. Both Karadzic and Mladic have been spotted by NATO troops in the past, such as at the recent funeral of a military collegue, but were not detained.

There is growing pessimism in Bosnia about whether elections billed by outsiders as the best hope for the ruined country can be anything more than deja vu.

In Bosnia's first-ever democratic elections in 1990, nationalist politicians emerged victorious and led their people into 31/2 years of war that left more than 200,000 dead or missing and wrecked the country. Those same leaders are still firmly in power.

Monday was the first day of voter registration.

Refugees have the right to vote for government in their original home town. But chances are slim that, say, the Muslims of Srebrenica - the east Bosnian U.N. "safe area" overrun by the Serbs last July - will return home any time soon.

Overall election prospects are slim if Karadzic and Mladic remain in power, even behind the scenes, noted Gojko Beric in today's editions of the Oslobodjenje daily.