by Paddy Ashdown
I first met Alija Izetbegović in July 1992. I met him regularly during the war years, frequently in the shell-battered presidency building in Sarajevo. Since May 2002, when I began my work as the International Community's High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, I have asked him for help as one of the key figures in this country's fitful reconstruction. That request was never
denied. We did not always agree, but I know that he was committed to the peaceful reconstruction of a Bosnia-Herzegovina which could be part of Europe and in which all its citizens could feel at home. He was tough, scholarly and serious. He lived a simple life and he had little of the opportunistic charm or coarse joviality that are hallmarks of political operators in the Balkans and elsewhere. Izetbegović, of all the leaders I dealt with during the war, was a man who conveyed only angst when confronted by the tragedy of conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina - he was devoid of the cynicism or vanity that marked other war leaders. History will no doubt say that not all his decisions were right, but more than anybody else he was responsible for the fact that Bosnia-Herzegovina survived.