Officials: International Forces on Track to Enforce Peace Pact
TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ With the deadline approaching for Bosnia’s warring sides to pull back from cease-fire lines, international forces trying to enforce the peace are steadily expanding their presence.
``We’re on track,″ said Lt. Col. David Shaw, spokesman for the British forces in Gornji Vakuf, about 30 miles west of Sarajevo.
All warring parties must move back 1.2 miles from confrontation lines by Jan. 19 _ the first major countrywide deadline of last month’s peace plan, which splits Bosnia into a Serb republic and Muslim-Croat federation.
Most of the 60,000 troops in the NATO-led force that will enforce the peace agreement should be in Bosnia by the end of January, said Swedish Lt. Col. Brynjar Nymo. Final deployment may take longer, depending on such factors as mine-clearing and the weather.
``We’re not going to risk anything unnecessary by rushing,″ he said. But he added: ``We do have enough forces to make sure that the warring factions actually do what they’re supposed to do.″
The NATO mission has been divided into three sectors, each controlled by one of the three main troop contributors of the 20 countries sending forces:
THE AMERICAN SECTOR
The United States _ the largest contributor to the NATO-led troops _ has more than 4,000 soldiers in Bosnia and expects to have about 10,000, half its planned deployment, here by Jan. 19. More than 100 trucks and tanks have been coming over the Sava River pontoon bridge daily from Croatia. The full deployment of U.S. troops is expected by mid-February.
After an initial troop build-up in U.S. headquarters in Tuzla, troops are concentrating on establishing bases and meeting with local military leaders. They are also scouting both sides of the cease-fire lines, especially in the northern part of the U.S.-controlled sector in northeast Bosnia, where the 4,000-strong 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division will operate.
The 2nd Brigade, which will be based in the southern part of the sector, is just starting to come into Bosnia.
Joining the Americans in their sector will be a Russian force of 1,600, expected to start arriving today.
Another part of the American sector is being patrolled by a Nordic-led brigade of Swedish, Danish, Fin and Polish troops. About half of the 3,000-strong brigade has arrived, and most of the rest are expected by the end of the month.
A smaller part of the American sector is under the watch of about 1,200 Turkish forces. Up to 300 more Turkish soldiers are expected by the end of January.
THE BRITISH SECTOR
Britain had a head start in the NATO deployment since it already had thousands of troops in Bosnia who had served as U.N. peacekeepers. Almost 11,000 of Britain’s planned 13,000 troops should be in place by Jan. 19.
The British moved into Serb-held territory on the first day of the NATO mission. They have a new command headquarters in the northern Serb stronghold of Banja Luka. They also have a base in Sipovo, in Bosnian Croat territory.
About 1,000 Canadians are assigned to patrol the northwestern area of Bihac. They should be fully deployed by Wednesday.
THE FRENCH SECTOR
Like Britain, France had troops already on the ground in Bosnia and was quick off the mark in the deployment. About 7,500 of the planned 10,000 French troops are already in Bosnia.
Around Sarajevo, French troops are patrolling 40 zones vacated by militias. The French brigade also includes Italians and Portuguese. Italy has nearly 1,000 soldiers in Bosnia and promises to send a total of 3,200.
Spanish troops, also in the French sector, are responsible for the city of Mostar, where clashes between Muslims and Croats are testing the peace plan’s dictate for a Muslim-Croat federation in Bosnia.