Sarajevo, 1 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - A U.N. spokesman says the international peace force in Bosnia (SFOR) today occupied and closed four transmission stations of Bosnian Serb (SRT) radio and television. Aleksander Ivanko said in Sarajevo the stations were closed because of what he called ongoing distortion of the truth.
SFOR spokesman Major Jan Joosten said earlier today that the peace force yesterday received a request from Carlos Westendorp, the international community's top representative in Bosnia, for military action against SRT.
Ivanko said today's action was triggered by what he called Serb "tampering" with a broadcast by U.N. war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour. Bosnian Serb television on Sunday broadcast a distorted videotape that suggested the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague is anti-Serb.
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said in Maastricht today that the transmitters will be handed over to the Serb faction led by embattled Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic. He said the transmitters will remain in the hands of Plavsic, who is locked in a power struggle with former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
Solana is in Maastricht for an informal meeting of defense ministers from the 16 NATO countries. The ministers are expected to discuss the future of NATO peacekeeping in Bosnia, the entry of three new members from Eastern Europe and the alliance's delicate relations with Moscow.
Russian combat troops are reported to have participated in the SFOR operation. ITAR-TASS and AFP quote an unidentified NATO official as saying the Russian troops had been deployed to prevent any public reaction to the seizure of the transmitters.
The operation was the first time Russia's contingent in SFOR had been involved in efforts to stop Serb Radio and Television from broadcasting the propoganda of nationalist hardliners opposed to the Dayton peace accords.
In August, Russia was critical of NATO's use of force to take control of a transmitter near Banja Luka in northern Bosnia.