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Bosnia: NATO Warns Bosnian Serbs Over Weapons Incident

Sarajevo, 5 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The commander of the NATO-led peace implementation force (IFOR) in Bosnia today warned Bosnian Serb police of the deadly danger of interfering with IFOR operations.

The commander, U.S. Admiral Joseph Lopez, said his soldiers are authorized to shoot to kill to defend themselves and others.

Lopez issued the warning a day after Bosnian Serb police in the northern city of Banja Lukja tried to block a British patrol that was confiscating weapons. The patrol was forced to seek refuge in a Serb army base after twice being harrassed by Serb police and angry crowds of Serb civilians. The patrol finally reached a NATO base early today.

Lopez noted the 10-strong patrol had exercised extreme restraint and chosen to fire a warning shot, even though they are not required to do so. Lopez said a future incident could have fatal consequences. He called the weapons movement a serious violation of the Dayton peace accord and urged Bosnian Serbs to punish those responsible.

The confrontation began as the British patrol inspected an armored Bosnian Serb police convoy and discovered a vehicle towing unauthorized weapons, including an anti-aircraft gun, a multiple-barrelled rocket launcher, 20 mm cannons and a machine gun.

British general Michael Walker, NATO ground troop commander, said the Bosnian Serb police were holding weapons that "no respectable police force in the world would be hauling around."