January 7, 1996
Web posted at: 2:50 p.m. EST (1950 GMT)
From Correspondent Bill Delaney and wire reports
PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- On same the day Bosnian Serbs and the rest of the Eastern Orthodox world celebrated Christmas (791K QuickTime movie), NATO warned of a "more robust" response to future small arms fire on its troops and aircraft. In the latest incident -- the fifth in four days -- a French warplane was hit twice by small arms fire during its final approach to the Sarajevo airport.
A NATO spokesman, Lt. Col. Richard Pernod, said the French Falcon 50 apparently was hit by shots fired to mark the Orthodox Christmas on Sunday. Nonetheless, NATO officials, who have repeatedly been pointing to the cooperation received from the warring parties, were warning that any further incidents could trigger a powerful response.
"There is, in my view, a nice line to draw between what could be described as 'ill-disciplined celebratory fire' and mischievous fire, which is where I suspect we are at the moment," said Gen. Michael Walker, NATO's second in command in Bosnia.
In previous days, British, French and Italian troops have come under fire.
"We don't want to have to shoot people"
-- Col. Mark Rayner, IFOR spokesman
(77K AIFF sound or 77K WAV sound)
Orthodox Christmas was calm in Pale, the Serb stronghold outside Sarajevo. Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who has kept a low profile since the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, surfaced on Christmas Eve, raising the traditional Christmas tree. As he has in the past, Karadzic called for changes in the treaty to accommodate Sarajevo Serbs, worried that on March 20 they are scheduled to come under Bosnian government control.
"We are making enormous efforts to implement the Dayton agreement and we are successful," Karadzic said. "Except in Sarajevo, where we have to find another solution (within) the framework of the Dayton agreement. Otherwise, we are happy with the peace, and we are doing everything to establish it forever." But what Karadzic wants doesn't matter, NATO officials say. He and Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic are "non-people," said Brig. Gen. Andrew Cummings (51K AIFF sound or 51K WAV sound). Both Karadzic and Mladic have been indicted for war crimes.
Within the next two weeks, NATO is due to complete a zone of separation throughout Bosnia. The schedule has been complicated, but not slowed, by attacks on NATO personnel. The most serious was on December 22, when a single round from a rifle pierced the cockpit of a U.S. cargo plane, hitting the bullet-proof seat of the aircraft's navigator. The crewman was unhurt and the round ricocheted into the cargo compartment.
Unlike the now-disbanded U.N. peacekeeping force in Bosnia, the NATO peace enforcement troops have rules of engagement that allow them to respond "disproportionately" to any attacks. "We don't want to have to shoot people," said Col. Mark Rayner, an IFOR spokesman.
For the first time in four years, Orthodox Christmas in Serb areas of Bosnia was more song than shooting. But the celebration comes in a season that -- for all of Bosnia -- is still more unsettling than serene.
Copyright 1996 Cable News Network, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive