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Bosnia: NATO Urges Civilian Organizations To Withdraw Staff

Sarajevo, August 12 (RFE/RL) -- Civilian organizations were urged by the commander of NATO ground forces today to withdraw foreign staff from Serb-held territory.

In a statement today, NATO Lieutenant General Sir Michael Walker recommended that all non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and other civilian organizations withdraw their foreign staff from the Republika Srpska as soon as possible.

The action was in response to an incident at the Bosnian Serb military headquarters at Han Pijesak, where Bosnian Serbs stopped NATO from inspecting an alleged weapons storage site.

Small, isolated detachments of IFOR troops stationed in the Bosnian Serb entity have begun redeploying to larger, more secure areas and bases. According to NATO, the redeployment is effective until further notice.

Today's statement was reportedly issued around the same time that a NATO political advisor in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale announced that the Serb leadership had agreed to settle a dispute with IFOR and allow its troops to inspect the alleged weapons storage site.

But it was not immediately clear whether providing access to the site in Han Pijesak would lead to IFOR withdrawing the civilian recommendation.