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First NATO Troops Arrive In Bosnia

December 4, 1995

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Two American sergeants arrived in Bosnia today to help lay the groundwork for a 60,000-strong NATO mission to enforce the Balkan peace.

The officers flew into Sarajevo on a camouflaged British C-130 Hercules transport plane carrying about two dozen NATO troops, including British, French and Belgians.

A second plane to Sarajevo brought a seven-member British logistics team, and a third flight carrying troops was expected later today. In Croatia, 56 British communications experts arrived in the port city of Split.

A third of the NATO force will be Americans _ the first U.S. peace enforcing mission sent to Bosnia during more than 3 1/2 years of war.

``We’ll be setting up the headquarters for the bigger force to come down,″ said Sgt. Matthew Chipman, of Beardstown, Ill., who arrived today with Sgt. Todd Eichmann, of Kansas City, Mo.

Chipman said the time frame for the rest of the troops’ arrival was undetermined. ``Everybody is hoping as soon as possible,″ said Chipman. He said he and Eichmann left their base in Augsburg, Germany, so quickly he didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to his parents.

A British soldier who flew into Sarajevo as part of the logistics team said that serving with the NATO force would be better that his previous job as a U.N. peacekeeper in Split because he is now authorized to use force.

``It’s the same job,″ Sgt. Eric Johnson said. ``But it’s easier this way.″

The soldiers who arrived today are the first of 2,600 assigned to lay the groundwork for whole force. In all, some 60,000 NATO troops _ a third from the United States _ will take part in the mission.

President Clinton gave the official go-ahead Sunday for the first small groups of U.S. soldiers to leave, but their travel plans were not clear. Some Americans were expected to arrive early this week in Kaposvar, Hungary, to set up a transit point.

The 56 soldiers who came to Croatia today as part of Britain’s 7th Signal Regiment will start dealing with communications, logistics and supplies. Some will head for Sarajevo and Tuzla, and others will stay at Split, a key transit point for Bosnia.

A convoy of 15 to 20 trucks was set to leave a NATO base in Naples, Italy, on Tuesday for Zagreb, Croatia, carrying equipment for the operation’s headquarters, said NATO spokesman Franco Veltri.

Clinton, speaking Sunday in Madrid at the end of a five-day European trip, brushed aside a defiant statement by the Bosnian Serb military leader, Gen. Ratko Mladic.

On Saturday, Mladic demanded a reconsideration of the peace accord’s transfer of control over Serb areas around Sarajevo to a new Muslim-Croat federation.

Speaking to his troops, Mladic said Serbs will never permit themselves to be ruled by ``butchers″ _ his description of the Muslims and Croats they have fought for more than 3 1/2 years.

Clinton was unyielding. ``No, I don’t think the treaty is in trouble, and no, I don’t think the treaty has to be renegotiated,″ he said.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking on ABC-TV’s ``This Week With David Brinkley,″ also emphasized that the accord brokered in Dayton, Ohio, ``will not be changed, it will not be modified″ to meet Bosnian Serb objections about the future of Sarajevo.

He said NATO forces do not expect organized resistance from the Serbs.

President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia ``understands he has a responsibility to get them under control and we expect him to carry out that responsibility,″ Christopher said.

Milosevic, who initially stoked the Bosnian war by supporting Serb rebels, later became a peacemaker to win an end to U.N. sanctions punishing his country for instigating the bloodletting.

Members of Congress said Sunday that both the Bosnian and Serbian leadership had promised them U.S. soldiers will be safe. But they acknowledged that the objections of Bosnian Serbs still worried them.

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