Nato bridge into Bosina now needs to be repaired


US MILITARY traffic over the Sava river bridge eased yesterday to avoid creating a New Year's Day traffic jam, while army sources said the structure needed repair, only a day after it opened.

The US Nato spokesman, Maj Tom Moyer, said only about 50 vehicles, a third of Sunday's level, were expected to cross the bridge, which forms the border between Croatia and Bosnia.

"We don't have the command and control structure to get them moving out on the other (Bosnian) side," he said.

That had to be put in place first. "Otherwise all we'll get is one vast parking lot," he said at a briefing in Sarajevo.

Armoured vehicles, Jeep style Humvee trucks and 70 tonne Abram tanks drove south over the Sava on a pontoon bridge completed on Sunday after a series of weather related delays.

Altogether, 148 vehicles and 436 troops crossed the swollen river on Sunday, the first day of an operation to move much of the 20,000 strong US contingent to the Bosnian peace Implementation Force (IFOR) from rear bases in Germany.

Townspeople from Orasje, which is controlled by Bosnian Croats, turned out to watch the arriving Americans. Children waved, but the others, mostly elderly men and women, watched in silence. They were joined by Bosnian Croat troops and Norwegian soldiers from the Nordic battalion who had come from their headquarters in Tuzla to the south.

Another US spokesman, Major Ryan Yantis, said the southbound Americans were heading to different points.

"They are going to various staging areas on the south side of the Sava river, where they will get back into their units," he said. "They will go further south," he said, "or into the zone of separation" which divides Bosnia's three warring factions. The size of the bases depended on their location and mission.

All three factions Serbs, Croats and Muslims have so far respected the Dayton peace accord. But Yantis said the Americans were ready for anything.

"We will look at the terrain and the possibility of conflict in those areas," he said. "Any force we might need in the area will be there"

The German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, yesterday warned leaders in the former Yugoslavia that economic aid to the ravaged region could depend on co operation in bringing war criminals to justice.

"The terrible war crimes in the former Yugoslavia must be atoned for and not swept under the carpet," Kinkel said in a statement. "If necessary, aid for reconstruction will have to be linked to the prosecution of war criminals."

The United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has so far indicted 52 suspects for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and army chief Ratko Mladic.

Kinkel noted that all the former warring parties had committed themselves in the Dayton peace accord to co operating with the tribunal, which is based in The Hague.

The minister also pointed a warning finger at Mladic, following press reports that two French pilots who spent 104 days in Bosnian Serb hands had been mistreated by their captors.

"If reports about what happened to the French pilots are true, then Mladic carries the responsibility," he said.

Three weeks ago, the tribunal said it had to ask Dutch police to release a suspected Bosnian Muslim war criminal because of lack of co operation from Serb and Bosnian Croat authorities.

A Bosnian government minister said yesterday that separatist Serbs had seized 11 civilians travelling on roads Nato had opened around Sarajevo.

Hasan Muratovic, one of the Muslim led government's most senior figures, said the 11 were dragged from their vehicles in the past week while travelling through Ilidza, a Serb held suburb to the west of the city.

Nothing was known about the fate of the missing, the state run BH news agency said.