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Planes, Taxis Mean Bosnia Peace Progress

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Jan. 21, 1998 – NATO Secretary General Javier Solana these days goes to Sarajevo monthly and that, he told a Swedish audience Jan. 19, shows the alliance's progress in securing peace in Bosnia.

"In the summer of 1995, I landed at Sarajevo airport in a crossfire," he said. "I spent a night at the Holiday Inn without water, without electricity, without glass in the windows. Just getting to Sarajevo was a feat in itself.

"The following year, 1996, it was difficult to land at Sarajevo airport, but at least we weren't shot at. By then, [the NATO peace implementation force] had stopped the fighting and we were able to hold a press conference at the Holiday Inn.

"I visit Sarajevo at least once a month now. Taking a plane there and back in a day is routine," Solana said. "When I arrive at 8 in the morning, instead of the signs of war, there are rows of taxis.

"Most importantly, SFOR [stabilization force] troops have put an end to Europe's bloodiest conflict since the end of World War II. We have rebuilt large parts of Bosnia's infrastructure and are helping with the resettlement of refugees."

Solana said NATO remains committed to implementing the Dayton peace agreement and to establishing Bosnia as a single, democratic and multiethnic state. The peace implementation must continue in an environment of general security, he said.

"We are witnessing slow, but steady, progress on many fronts, but we are aware that despite recent progress, peace, and the institutions of civil society to uphold it, remain fragile," he said.

NATO military authorities are currently developing options for a NATO-led military presence in Bosnia following the end of the stabilization force mandate this summer, he said. "Until then, SFOR will keep its forces in Bosnia at present levels."

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