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NATO Increases Patrols in Bosnia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 1996 – Having completed most of its military tasks "almost flawlessly," NATO's peace implementation force is now conducting more visible patrols throughout Bosnia, according to Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Following meetings with Serb, Croat and Bosnian leaders in Geneva June 2, and NATO officials in Berlin June 3, Christopher commended the NATO command for successfully executing its mission.

He said the force has made remarkable progress in meeting its military goals -- ending the fighting, establishing zones of separation, transferring territory, demobilizing troops and putting heavy weapons in cantonment areas.

"They have done this in less than six months," Christopher said. "They have already achieved what the cynics thought was once impossible." While Bosnia is still a troubled country, the prospect force will be used to resolve difficulties is fading, he said.

"IFOR is now in a position to expand its presence throughout all of Bosnia to establish a safe and secure environment for civilian implementation," he said. "Our troops will conduct more visible and proactive patrols throughout the country."

Increased patrols will improve freedom of movement, help achieve the goal of holding elections by Sept. 14 -- the date set in the Dayton agreement -- and put war criminals at greater risk of apprehension, Christopher said.

NATO forces began more patrols in May, according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Mike Doubleday. The increase should not be seen as a change of mission, he said. Under the Dayton agreement, the patrols are a continuation of the implementation force's mission. Having accomplished the initial military tasks, the force is now able to dedicate more personnel and resources to ensure freedom of movement in the country.

"IFOR is becoming a more visible presence throughout much of Bosnia," Doubleday said. "The result of that is that the war criminals, who have from time to time been very visible, will not be able to be as visible in the future." Increased patrols raise the potential for NATO forces to come into contact with indicted war criminals, Doubleday said.

The former warring parties are responsible for apprehending indicted war criminals, Doubleday said. NATO peace forces will detain war criminals if they're encountered and turn them over to the International War Crimes Tribunal, he said.

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