Breaking News
Hi Reach

NATO Chief Warns Bosnian Serbs On War Crimes Suspects

By IRENA GAJIC Associated Press Writer

Dec. 19, 1997

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) - NATO's chief official told the rival of Bosnia's No. 1 war crimes suspect Friday that the alliance would press ahead with raids of the kind that netted two other suspects a day earlier.

In an indirect warning to top suspect Radovan Karadzic, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said Thursday's arrests of two Bosnian Croats sought by a U.N. tribunal should serve as a warning to 56 other indictees still at large.

"It sends a very clear signal to those who are indicted war criminals and do not want to turn themselves in," Solana said, adding that the obligation to hand over the suspects "lies within the political responsibilities of the parties involved."

Speaking after talks with Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic in Banja Luka, he warned that if the suspects are not turned in, the NATO-led force "will do its job as it did yesterday."

The two Croats snatched Thursday were handed over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Plavsic is locked in a power struggle with Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader indicted twice by the tribunal.

Most of the eastern part of the Bosnian Serb territory is still run by Karadzic and his allies from their stronghold of Pale, just east of Sarajevo.

Karadzic and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, are the leading war crimes suspects at large. NATO has kept Karadzic under increasingly obvious surveillance in recent months. But both men are closely guarded, and a move against them likely would cost lives.

Although she is a hard-line nationalist, Plavsic has promised to implement the Dayton peace accord and has been rewarded with multimillion-dollar foreign aid packages.

Solana's visit was just one of dozens of recent months that have signaled international support for Plavsic.

Bosnian High Commissioner Carlos Westendorp also met Plavsic on Friday, urging her to convene Bosnian Serb parliament "as soon as possible." He told reporters she had pledged to do so Dec. 27.

Elections in the Bosnian Serb substate last month left the pro-Karadzic party weakened and allowed Plavsic supporters to establish a relatively strong presence in the assembly. Her hard-line foes have challenged the vote and are threatening to boycott the new session.

Plavsic also endorsed President Clinton's decision to extend the stay of U.S. troops in Bosnia beyond the current June 1998 deadline.

"We really do need them," Plavsic said after the meeting with Solana.