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EU Takes Over Bosnia Mission

2 December 2004 -- The European Union began its largest military operation today, formally taking over NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina with 7,000 troops.

The operation is seen a major step in the EU's drive to develop a military arm.

Those who attended the handover ceremony in Sarajevo included NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, as well as the Bosnian three-member presidency.

Solana said the takeover was a significant moment in European history.

"Today, we gather here to look to the future, but without forgetting the lessons of the past -- a future for Bosnia-Herzegovina that is in Europe with its values, its progress, its stability, and its prosperity. After the successful NATO operation, the deployment of the European force today signifies one again the commitment of Europe to these goals," Solana said.

A 60,000 troops strong, multinational NATO-led force was deployed in Bosnia after the 1992-1995 war between Muslims, Serbs, and Croats that killed 260,000 and forced half of the country's 4 million people to flee their homes. The force was later scaled down to 7,000.

A limited number of American troops will remain in Bosnia to hunt for suspected war criminals.