Udrigovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; 2 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - A U.S. Army colonel with the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia says U.S. troops guarding a key television transmitter in Bosnia handed it over to six hardline Bosnian Serb police early today after securing a deal guaranteeing its broadcasts.
Hardline Bosnian Serbs who had attacked the 60 U.S. troops guarding the Udrigovo transmitter near Bijeljina in Bosnia's northeasternmost corner yesterday left at dawn today.
Colonel Montaigu Winfield says the U.S. troops transferred control over the transmitter after the hardline mayor of Bijeljina and the Bosnian Serb information minister agreed to allow rival television stations to broadcast.
But the U.S. troops remain around the transmitter, setting up a barbed wire fence around the area and flattening the earth around the tower.
The Pale-based news agency SRNA says the move came as leading Serb hardliner Momcilo Krajisnik offered to meet his rival, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, for talks he said had been negotiated by Serb Orthodox Patriarch Pavle.
Winfield told AFP the handover was made conditional on the Banja Luka-based television station supportive of Plavsic being allowed to share the transmitter for broadcasts with the Pale hardliners.
AP says the deal allows the hardliners access to the transmitter provided they tone down what NATO has alleged is their anti-NATO and anti-UN-propaganda.
Yesterday afternoon a crowd of about 300 Bosnian Serbs pelted the NATO troops with rocks. There were no reports of injuries.
NATO officials said the SFOR troops took control of the transmitter late last week to prevent to prevent opposing Serb factions from battling for its control.
Yesterday's stone-throwing came just five days after U.S. soldiers were attacked by a crowd in the eastern town of Brcko.