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U.S. Urges Bosnian Presidents to Allow Freedom of Movement

November 14, 1996|From Associated Press

PARIS — With hundreds of Bosnian Muslims threatening to reclaim their Serb-held homes by force, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher told Bosnia's leaders Wednesday that freedom of movement is essential to peace. He said tensions are rising to a critical point.

Christopher told the three joint presidents of the battered country that refugees everywhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina--possibly 2 million or more--have a right to choose where to live. "That needs to be worked on," Christopher said after what probably was his final round of Bosnia mediation.

"We are at a very critical stage in Bosnia," he said at a news conference.

The Bosnian Serbs did not respond to the appeal, and Christopher's chief spokesman, Nicholas Burns, accused them of a "reprehensible pattern of behavior," while also criticizing the Muslims for failing to apply for permission to go home again.

Christopher met in Paris with presidents Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim; Kresimir Zubak, a Croat; and Momcilo Krajisnik, a Serb. Christopher hoped to galvanize the presidents into putting aside ethnic differences to secure stability in the Balkans.

"He explained the need to be pushing on the [1995] Dayton peace accords," Burns said. "He made a definite point we didn't see an improvement in the commitment of all on many issues."

Meanwhile, about 800 angry Muslims massed Wednesday near Celic in northeastern Bosnia at a checkpoint staffed by U.S. and Russian peacekeeping troops, leaving open the possibility of renewed fighting over a nearby village where Serbs and Muslims clashed Tuesday.

As Wednesday's demonstration grew, international mediators in Bosnia announced the suspension of the refugee resettlement program in the zone of separation, a 2 1/2-mile-wide demilitarized band that separates the former warring factions.

One U.N. official said the decision put the whole Bosnian peace plan in "deep, deep trouble."

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