January 8, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT)
From Correspondent Bill Delaney and wire reports
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Reacting to a rash of shootings aimed at its soldiers, NATO warned rogue fighters from Bosnia's warring factions Monday to hold their fire or face a deadly allied response.
The threat came as the European Union reported an easing of the recent violence between Muslims and Croats in the key city of Mostar. But in another challenge to the NATO-led peacekeeping mission, Bosian Serbs are demanding an extension of the deadline for the handover of Serb-held areas of Sarajevo.
There will be chaos and resistance if Sarajevo Serbs are not given more time to resettle.
-- Momcilo Krajisnik, President, Bosnian Serb Assembly
"I think that's a completely unrealistic option."
-- Carl Bildt, International high representative for Bosnia
Thousands of Serbs living in the capital are considering whether to pack up their belongings and clear out -- and many have already done so -- in advance of March 20, when the Muslim-led Bosnian government is to take jurisdiction of Serb communities. Serb leaders warn of inevitable, organized resistance, a "Beirut-style" situation, if their new demand to change the Dayton agreement is not met.
In a letter to Carl Bildt, the international community's chief civilian representative in Bosnia, the president of the Bosnian Serb assembly, Momcilo Krajisnik, demanded a delay to September 15. He said the six additional months are needed so that 45,000 Serb families can be resettled outside Sarajevo.
Krajisnik's letter predicts that without a delay there will be mass exodus in March accompanied by "chaos, incidents, and material damage," with as many as half the residents in Serb areas of Sarajevo electing to stay behind to resist.
Relocating Sarajevo Serbs is "a completely unrealistic option," Bildt responded. "We very much hope we can prevent a massive new wave of refugees." And the commander of the peace implementation force (IFOR), Adm. Leighton Smith, told CNN that organized resistance could drive NATO out of Bosnia. Despite the potential setback, Smith stressed how overwhelmingly tranquil most of Bosnia remains and said NATO troops are ahead of schedule in setting up lines of separation between the warring factions.
Nevertheless, two Apache helicopters were deployed to patrol Sarajevo after a series of attacks on aircraft flying in or out of the capital's airport, plus some other shooting incidents around the country. "I regret soon it is going to be too dangerous for someone. Fire will be returned and it is going to cost lives," said an IFOR spokesman.
The attacks -- which have not be blamed on any of the former warring sides -- were sporadic but NATO hopes to show it cannot be pushed around before the trickle of incidents turns into a serious challenge. As a result, it's bringing in the Apaches, bristling with guns and equipped with heat sensors and television cameras to pinpoint any source of firing.
Meanwhile, a NATO spokesman said the level of violence in the southern town of Mostar has fallen since Spanish troops began to patrol in armored cars last weekend. Moslems and Croats have been feuding in the city. Gun attacks have claimed at least two lives and seriously wounded two Moslem policemen last week.
Mostar is the stronghold of hardline Bosnian Croat nationalists, who would prefer to have a separate Bosnian Croat state rather than the Moslem-Croat federation that is being set up in half of Bosnia under the peace agreement.
In an apparent bid to win over distrustful Serbs, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said the government is likely to declare an amnesty for separatist Serb soldiers who have not committed war crimes. Diplomats say an amnesty would help reassure them it would be safe for them to remain in areas coming under Bosnian government control. Many Serb soldiers and policemen have said they fear revenge attacks when Muslims exercise their right under the peace agreement to return to homes they were expelled from by Serbs.
Also Monday, U.S. envoy Robert Gallucci, who is responsible for following up civilian aspects of the Dayton peace accords, arrived in Zagreb on the first leg of a tour of the former Yugoslavia. Gallucci's visit precedes a planned trip to Bosnia later this month by President Bill Clinton.
Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive