Major powers threaten sanctions if Bosnia POW release not completed
March 24, 1996
Web posted at: 11:25 p.m. EST (0425 GMT)
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb leaders met Sunday to finalize a prisoner release, under pressure of an international threat of economic sanctions.
The Bosnian government released 109 prisoners of war late Saturday -- just before a self-imposed deadline expired. But Saturday's release was far from a complete one.
The heads of the prisoner exchange commission from both sides met just south of Sarajevo, and committed to resolving the issue within eight days. But both Amor Masovic from the Bosnian government and Dragan Bulajic of the Bosnian Serbs said that differences still kept them apart.
Specifically, Masovic said the Bosnian government believed that Saturday's release put the government in full compliance with the peace accord's prisoner release agreement.
International officials, however, have called for the release of 26 additional prisoners who are under investigation for possible war crimes, or are serving sentences for convictions of such crimes.
The Serbs are holding 20 Bosnian Croats and eight Bosnian army soldiers -- three of whom are under investigation for war crimes. Bulajic said his side was willing to release those prisoners, but not unless the Bosnian government releases the 26 prisoners it holds.
All prisoners were to have been released by January 19 under the terms of the Dayton peace agreement. Members of the major powers overseeing the implementation of the agreement threatened Saturday to postpone a fundraising conference in April if the prisoner release was not completed.
And Colum Murphy, spokesman for Carl Bildt, the international community's peace coordinator in Bosnia, said Sunday that "economic consequences" would follow a lack of adherence to the agreement.
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