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Bosnian President Hospitalized With Heart Problems

February 22, 1996

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic was rushed to a hospital Thursday with heart problems, raising fears of another strain on Bosnia’s fragile peace.

Izetbegovic, 70, is the unquestioned leader of Bosnia’s Muslims. Any weakness in the government could be exploited by other factions, undermining the tenuous peace that has settled on Bosnia since an accord signed last December ended more than 3 1/2 years of war.

A terse government statement said Izetbegovic (pronounced Ee-zet-BEH-go-vich) suffered sudden cardiac problems and was hospitalized.

Edhem Bicakcic, vice president of the ruling Party for Democratic Action, said that Izetbegovic was ``out of critical condition. He will be all right.″

Ismet Grbo, a spokesman for the party, said earlier the president would have to remain hospitalized for an unspecified time.

The peace accord has been foundering in recent weeks over war crimes allegations and the reunification of the capital Sarajevo, under Muslim-led government rule, set to begin Friday.

Serbs, incited by their leaders, are fleeing Sarajevo rather than allowing themselves to come under the control of their former enemies.

On Thursday, all mountain routes through Serb-held territory were blocked by snow, jackknifed trucks and vehicles streaming out of the city.

Some Serbs, unable to find transportation, loaded possessions on their backs and trekked through the snow and mud.

Hundreds of Serb trucks and buses lined a road into Sarajevo, hoping to cross the government-held part of the city to Serb-held areas to help evacuate Serbs.

Between 20,000 and 40,000 Serbs have fled the capital since the accord was initialed in November. They are angered at losing any claim to Bosnia’s symbolic heart and afraid of government reprisals for Serb attacks on government-held parts of the city.

The peace accord partitions Bosnia into two entities _ one Serb, the other a Muslim-Croat federation. Some 60,000 NATO-led forces, including 20,000 Americans, are policing the peace.

On Wednesday, Serb leaders pledged to restore all military links with the NATO force, severed over the arrest and extradition two weeks ago of two Serb officers on war crimes charges.

The Serbs’ willingness to cooperate again with NATO may be in response to a statement Wednesday from the peace force’s commander, U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith, that said Bosnia’s factions have complied with the early stages of the military aspects of the peace accord.

That opens the way for the suspension of U.N. sanctions against Bosnian Serbs, imposed in September 1994 after the Serbs rejected an earlier peace plan.

Yet NATO commanders said Thursday that the United Nations should wait 48 hours before voting on whether to end the sanctions.

The announcement came after a fresh Serb violation of the peace plan: On Wednesday, U.S. troops discovered an unregistered Serb military bunker and Serb mortars pointing at a U.S. base, NATO officers said.

U.S. Lt. Gen. William Carter, chief of staff of the NATO-led force, said a waiting period was necessary to see if the pledge of renewed contacts will be carried out on the ground.

NATO said a test of Bosnian Serb seriousness would take place Friday in the Serb stronghold of Banja Luka, where a British commander was to meet with a Bosnian Serb general.

Bosnian Serb army headquarters issued a statement Thursday saying, ``... the cooperation with (the NATO force) at all levels is going on normally and in the spirit of the Dayton agreement.″

Also on Thursday, U.S. troops at checkpoints separating warring factions were given posters _ similar to FBI most-wanted fliers _ of alleged Bosnian Serb and Croat war criminals indicted by an international tribunal.

The posters contain the names of 51 alleged war criminals and photographs of 17 of them. The suspects include 41 Bosnian Serbs, 7 Croats and three men of unknown nationality.

The troops do not have orders to pursue alleged criminals, but they do have permission to apprehend the suspects if they see them.

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