Angry Bosnian Serb leaders immediately broke off contacts with the Muslim-led government. Even NATO denounced the arrests of the officers, whom Bosnia accused of slaughtering civilians.
"The city of Sarajevo has, sadly, become the Beirut of Europe ... and has disqualified itself as a possible joint Serb, Muslim and Croat capital," Serb leaders said in a statement. Serb officials said they would no longer travel to areas of Sarajevo held by the Bosnian government.
Brig. Andrew Cumming, a spokesman for the NATO force, described the arrests as "provocative and inflammatory," noting that neither Serb officer had been indicted by the international tribunal investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
"It would be a pity if this encouraged a retaliatory reaction," Cumming said. "Everything is very fragile."
Bosnia claimed Gen. Djordje Djukic and Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic bear responsibility for mass killings of civilians around Sarajevo.
The pursuit of war criminals is one of the touchiest issues in bringing peace to Yugoslavia. The Dayton peace accord requires all sides to cooperate in bringing war criminals to justice, but appears to speak mainly of those labeled as criminals by the international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Only one of 52 people indicted by that tribunal is in custody.
The peace accord doesn't address what might happen if Bosnia decided to charge the two with war crimes under its own laws.
The Muslim-led Bosnian government disclosed Monday that it has detained eight Serbs over the past three weeks, and is holding five on suspicion of war crimes.