February 14, 1996
Web posted at: 11 p.m. EST (0400 GMT)
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Determined to firm up a brittle Bosnian peace accord, the United States has asked Italy to host a summit this weekend which will focus on putting the peace deal back on track.
Attending the so-called expanded Contact Group meeting in Rome will be officials from Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Canada, Italy and the United States as well as the presidents of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the European Union and Russia agreed to join the United States in co-chairing the summit to be held Friday and Saturday in Rome.
The meeting has been called to remind the three Balkan leaders that they have an obligation to fully implement the US-brokered peace accords which ended nearly four years of war in Bosnia -- and the worst carnage in Europe since World War II.
"We are determined that the Dayton accords are going to succeed, meaning that they're going to be successful in bringing a permanent peace to Bosnia," State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns told reporters.
Burns stressed that parties to the Bosnia deal will not be allowed to pick and choose among its provisions but must comply with the entire agreement.
U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Bosnia deal and a key force in keeping it from crumbling, will lead the U.S. team in Rome.
The peace treaty has been under increasing strain ever since the Serb military, in violation of the accord, severed contacts last week with IFOR (the NATO-led peace implementation force) to demand the release of some eight Serbs -- including two top officers -- held by the Bosnian Muslim-led government.
Four Serbs were freed but the two officers were extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague to face questions by investigators.
Near Sarajevo, at least two people were wounded Wednesday when a bus carrying civilians to the city came under fire in the Serb-populated suburb of Ilidza.
Regular bus service between Sarajevo and Ilidza had just resumed, having been suspended since April 1992.
"I am surprised that this happened because I thought NATO would provide us with security," said a 76-year-old male passenger injured in the attack.
Witnesses told the Reuter news service that the bus was hit by at least four bullets.
Ilidza is one of five Sarajevo suburbs currently under Serb control. It is to be handed over to Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation on March 20.
NATO, which has committed 60,000 troops to keeping peace in Bosnia, said its contacts with Bosnian Serb commanders had broken down completely in its dispute over the detention of the two Serb officers by the tribunal.
NATO spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Rayner described the break in contacts with Bosnian Serb commanders as serious.
"We have not heard from the top leadership of the Bosnian Serb army for six days. All but emergency communications have been cut off at the highest levels of command since midday last Thursday," Rayner told reporters in Sarajevo.
Rayner said NATO forces were "seeking guidance" on apprehending suspected war criminals after criticism that the alliance had allowed Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic -- indicted twice by the tribunal -- to move freely around the country.
U.S. troops patrolling an outpost in northern Bosnia also confirm a breakdown in their relations with local Serb forces.
"We tried to make contact, but they say sorry, we can't talk to you officially about any matters at all," said one soldier.
It is in places like Gorazde -- a Muslim enclave almost surrounded by the Serb Republic -- that the need for cooperation between all sides becomes even more crucial.
The only road to Gorazde goes through Serb territory. And although there is meant to be freedom of movement, no Gorazde resident dares travel in and out without an IFOR escort.
The peace plan calls for carving out a safe corridor that will connect Gorazde with the rest of Bosnian government territory.
British military engineers say they believe such a corridor may take a couple of years to build.
Peace has brought quiet to Gorazde but not a whole lot more. Many of the residents are still without electricity and water.
At the battered post office, residents wait to make their first phone call in three and a half years. There are no land lines and now the city is trying to hook up a satellite phone service.
"We've got some technical problems," says one official. "We hope to be connected to the outside world soon."
In The Hague, the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said its first trial, of Bosnian Serb Dusan Tadic, would begin on May 7.
Tadic has been charged with murdering, raping and torturing Muslims and Croats at the infamous Omarska prison camp in northwest Bosnia in 1992. He denies the charges.
In one incident he is alleged to have forced one prisoner to bite off a testicle from another inmate.
The former cafe-owner and karate teacher will be the first person to be tried by an international war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War Two.
Chief prosecutor Richard Goldstone said the tribunal, set up by the Security Council in May 1993, is expected to issue its first indictments against Bosnian Muslims soon.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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