NATO Seizes Utilities in Bosnia to Prevent Sabotage

<i> From Reuters</i>

French peacekeepers seized water and power plants in Greater Sarajevo on Tuesday to prevent sabotage, as NATO’s commander sought to reassure Serbs that they will be safe during the transfer of their areas to Bosnian government control.

Officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said that 150 French soldiers, backed by 30 armored vehicles, took up positions before 8 a.m. at four installations in Serb-held suburbs to the west of the city. French forces have responsibility for Sarajevo.

French NATO spokesman Maj. Herve Gourmelon said the operation, which had been planned in secret, was carried out “in order to prevent desperate measures by certain [Serbian] elements.”

NATO has repeatedly said sabotage is a major worry in Sarajevo. The French operation reflected mounting concern about the prospects that the Feb. 3 deadline specified in the Dayton, Ohio, peace deal for the takeover of Serbian districts will be met.

U.S. Adm. Leighton W. Smith, NATO’s commander in Bosnia, urged local leaders to persuade worried Serbs around Sarajevo that they will be safe in their homes during the hand-over.


Doubts were also growing Tuesday that Bosnia’s former warring parties will meet Friday’s deadline to release their prisoners of war.

On Monday, the government effectively blocked the mass release of nearly 1,000 prisoners captured by all sides during the 3 1/2-year Bosnian conflict by refusing to hand over its Serbian captives unless thousands of missing Muslims are accounted for.

The POW standoff took another turn for the worse Tuesday when the scheduled release of 350 Serbian and Muslim prisoners failed to take place.