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'Peace clock' is ticking in Bosnia

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December 16, 1995
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT)

From Correspondent Mike Hanna

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Fog grounded NATO troops waiting to travel to Bosnia on Saturday, but the transfer of authority from the United Nations to NATO has begun. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to authorize NATO to send troops to Bosnia, therefore shutting down a U.N. mission that failed to restore the peace in the war-torn Balkans.



"The war clock has stopped and the peace clock has started ticking,"

-- Alexander Ivanko


U.S. troops could not land in Tuzla Saturday when freezing fog forced officials to shut down the air base's runway. Planes carrying equipment landed safely in Sarajevo, however, and NATO officials said that the weather would not affect the overall deployment plan.

"The weather is a factor. We knew it would give us problems but at the moment we are not systematically affected," said NATO spokesman Major Simon Haselock. "We are on time and on schedule."

The 15-member Security Council's approval was required to officially begin the process of dispatching NATO troops to relieve the 20,000 U.N. soldiers in Bosnia of their peacekeeping duties. The North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Belgium, will give the measure final approval before 60,000 troops are dispatched to enforce the Bosnia peace agreement brokered last month in Dayton, Ohio, and signed Thursday in Paris.

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic arrived in Sarajevo Friday, no doubt carrying with him a copy of the accord that he signed. The agreement provides for a united city under the authority of his government.

At the same airport, there was an ongoing arrival of NATO troops, who will move into their peacekeeping roles and positions as soon as final approval from the North Atlantic Council is given. Their job will be to ensure that the Dayton accord is implemented. Already on the ground was heavy armor designed to discourage military opposition.

Troops that make up NATO's 60,000-strong Implementation Force , or IFOR, include 20,000 from the United States, 13,000 from Britain and 10,000 from France and 2,000 from Russia. Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Baltic states, Malaysia, Pakistan, Egypt and Ukraine are contributing 10,000 troops between them.

tankIFOR 
vehicle

It is the biggest military operation in NATO's history and the largest movement of troops in Europe since World War II.

In a few days, the white letters on various war equipment and helmets will be painted out as the United Nations operations ends and the mission IFOR begins. "The war clock has stopped and the peace clock has started ticking," said UNPROFOR spokesman Alexander Ivanko.

Cease-fire violations, but no human targets

The United Nations sought to play down numerous cease-fire violations that have followed the signing of the accord. Among them was the firing of rifle grenades and possibly a mortar round from Serb-held areas in the city. The United Nations said it appeared that those responsible were careful to avoid human targets.

Chris Vernon

"There were civilians around. There were Bosnian soldiers clearly in view and they probably deliberately fired at walls and were not trying to kill people," said UNPROFOR spokesman Chris Vernon. (119K AIFF sound or 119K WAV sound)

But there is one important issue that cannot be so easily played down. There were optimistic sounds from Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, but there was a sinister echo as well. The Bosnian Serb leader declared peace Friday but withheld the declaration for Serb sections in Sarajevo, which complicates the goal of a united Bosnia.

Radovan Karadzic

By his semi- commitment to end war, Karadzic wanted to show that, while committed to the peace plan, he is still bitterly opposed to reuniting Sarajevo with Serbs under Muslim and Croat rule. The U.S.-mediated peace agreement divides Bosnia into two regions, one controlled by Serbs, the other by the federation of Muslims and Croats. The regions will share a central government.

The nine Serb neighborhoods that Karadzic is refusing to commit to the peace plan are to be reunited with the rest of the capital under the Muslim-Croat federation.

Critics contend that Karadzic does not have the power to either end or wage war, but the veiled threat is real enough. It is in attempting to forge a united city that the success or failure of the NATO mission will be largely determined.

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