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First Planes Land in Tuzla in Five Days

December 18, 1995

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Two U.S. military planes landed at Tuzla air base today when five days of heavy fog finally lifted.

The huge C-130s touched down 10 minutes apart, unloaded military vehicles, equipment and supplies onto the airstrip, and swiftly took off.

The planes flew in from Aviano Air Base in Italy, although they are based at Ramstein, Germany, U.S. Air Force Capt. James Law said. The Germany-based spokesman said 14 C-130s were scheduled to fly from Ramstein to Tuzla today.

``There are certain levels below which we can’t fly if the weather’s too bad. We met those limits today. That’s why they got in,″ Law said.

On Sunday, poor visibility forced the U.S. Air Force to cancel 57 flights _ 26 to the U.S. headquarters in Tuzla and 31 to the mission’s staging area in Hungary. NATO diverted some flights carrying equipment and personnel to Sarajevo.

Among those delayed by the fog that has blanketed Tuzla since Wednesday are the first U.S. combat troops scheduled to arrive in Bosnia.

U.S. paratroopers from the 325th Airborne based in Vicenza, Italy, are responsible for securing the airstrip in Tuzla, headquarters for the 20,000 U.S. troops who will be part of the NATO peace enforcing mission.

Military planners also ran into problems on the ground.

Eight U.S. Army trains were moving toward Croatia’s Sava River border with Bosnia today, where they will build a pontoon bridge, said Col. Konrad Freitag, a chief NATO spokesman in Zagreb.

The first army train carrying 130 U.S. Army soldiers and equipment stopped at Vrpolje, 25 miles short of its destination at the border town of Zupanja, AP photographer Zoran Bozicevic reported.

The train was being unloaded because it was too heavy to continue the journey by rail. Four 70-ton Abrams M-1 tanks and 14 Bradley fighting vehicles will travel by road under Croatian police escort to the Sava River itself, Bozicevic quoted military officials as saying.

The troops will provide security for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is scheduled to start building the bridge next week, said Maj. Lew Boone at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart.

At Mount Jahorina, above Sarajevo, Bosnian Serb leaders on Sunday conditionally ratified a Balkan peace plan, despite vehement objections to giving up territory to their former enemies.

They also approved a 10-point list of objections to the Dayton peace deal that was largely symbolic _ an attempt to save face with their people.

``We cannot just accept it outright. We have to explain something to our people,″ said a Bosnian Serb deputy, who spoke on condition he not be named.

They rejected the establishment of Muslim-Croat rule in Serb-held sections of Sarajevo and insisted on Bosnian Serbs’ right to eventually secede from Bosnia-Herzegovina and join neighboring Serb-led Yugoslavia.

But Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic negotiated the peace plan and is unlikely to back their demands.

The Bosnian Serb assembly also formally accepted the deployment of U.S.-led NATO peace enforcers to Bosnian Serb territory.

``We do not consider the Americans our enemies,″ said Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

``Dayton represents an overall defeat of the Serbs,″ he said. But ``we have to be brave and go on with the building of our state.″

Deputies demanded that an international tribunal revoke war crimes indictments against their leaders, whose actions during 3 1/2 years of war they defended as ``the struggle of the leadership for its own people.″

Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military leader Lt. Gen. Ratko Mladic have been indicted by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The Bosnian government dismissed the Serb assembly’s declaration by declaring it irrelevant.

``I do not believe that anybody listens any more to what they say,″ said Hasan Muratovic, Bosnian minister for relations with the United Nations and NATO.

As of Saturday, 922 NATO troops were in Bosnia and 915 in Croatia, all part of the NATO Implementation Force. Plans calls for 60,000 NATO troops, one-third of them American, to enforce the peace accord.

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