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Bosnia: NATO Backs New Peacekeeping Force Plan

Brussels, 9 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - NATO ambassadors gave provisional approval today for an alliance-led force of between 25,000-30,000 troops to stay in Bosnia next year to police the fragile Dayton peace accords.

The 16 ambassadors approved the plan for a Stabilization Force (SFOR) after meeting in Brussels today with representatives of 17 non-NATO nations contributing troops to the peace mission.

NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels tomorrow and Wednesday, are expected to endorse an 18-month long mission which will officially begin December 20 -- the day the mandate of the current force expires. Officials said the United Nations Security Council is expected to pass a resolution approving the force next week.

The new force takes over from the NATO-led Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) which at its height numbered some 60,000 troops from over 30 countries.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, the international mediator for Bosnia, Carl Bildt, says Russian units will be part of the NATO-led force that will stay in Bosnia next year to police the fragile Dayton peace accords.

He said Russian units would be part of the 25,000-30,000 -strong force and would be deployed from between 12 to 18 months.

Bildt described as "wonderful" present cooperation between NATO and Russia and said it bodes well for future interaction between Moscow and the Western alliance.

Bildt spoke to reporters in Moscow today after a meeting with Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov.