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US Reconnaissance Team Arrives In Tuzla

November 29, 1995

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The first advance team of American soldiers arrived in Tuzla today to prepare for thousands of U.S. troops who will help to enforce the Bosnian peace settlement.

The northern Bosnian city has been proposed as the site of the main base for Americans who will participate in the 60,000-member NATO peace force.

The reconnaissance team of about 10 Americans, from the 1st Armored Division based in Germany, was expected to stay in Tuzla for a day or two, said Capt. Yahya Siddiqui, a U.N. spokesman.

In Brussels, senior U.S. defense officials said today that NATO intends to give the formal go-ahead Thursday for an advance squad of 1,400 allied soldiers _ including as many as 700 Americans _ to enter Bosnia.

Once approval is given, the troops could start heading to Bosnia immediately, although a specific departure date has not been set, the officials said today. They spoke from NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on condition they not be identified.

The advance squad is to set up communications, supply bases and make other arrangements to enable a smooth deployment of the main body of peacekeepers starting in mid-December, the officials said.

NATO also hopes to finish reviewing the overall plan for the peacekeeping force and give the required approval by Friday, they said.

President Clinton sought support Tuesday from Congress for plans to send 20,000 U.S. troops to Bosnia. He appeared to be making headway, with Republican Senate Majority leader Bob Dole saying he wanted to support the president.

U.S. and Russian officials on Tuesday worked out an arrangement to give Moscow a political voice in the Bosnia operation, and military chiefs of the NATO members approved the peacekeeping plan, called ``Joint Endeavor.″

Meanwhile, European Union envoy Carl Bildt arrived in Sarajevo to confer with the Bosnian government on implementing the accord signed last week near Dayton, Ohio.

The NATO force is to absorb the U.N. peacekeeping force already on the ground and take over most of the U.N. civilian administration.

U.N. officials in Sarajevo reported continued arson and looting in the western Bosnian towns of Sipovo and Mrkonjic Grad by uniformed Bosnian Croats.

Sipovo and Mrkonjic Grad would be returned to Bosnian Serbs under the peace agreement. U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko said about 30 percent of both towns had been burned down, and that factory equipment was being looted.

Ivanko said the United Nations was urging the Bosnian Croats in charge to stop the burning and looting.

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, reported problems getting convoys through to the Muslim enclave of Gorazde, east of Sarajevo.

``Convoys that go to Gorazde are often harassed, often held up at checkpoints, sometimes as long as two or three hours,″ Janowski said. ``Basically they (Serbs) are trying to go back to the previous status quo when they were checking convoys.

U.N. military spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Vernon said the United Nations was not ruling out the use of force to ensure free access to Gorazde.

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