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Bosnia/Serbia: NATO Commander To Meet President Milosevic

Belgrade, 4 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe, U.S. General Wesley Clark, is due in Belgrade today to meet Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic after saying NATO would use "lethal force" if attacked in Bosnia. Yesterday, Clark called on indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to voluntarily surrender to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Officials of the U.S. embassy in Belgrade say that Clark is also due to meet the Yugoslav Army chief of staff, while Milosevic would also meet U.S. military envoy James Pardew.

The visit comes just days ahead of municipal elections due in Bosnia that hardliners have threatened to disrupt. This comes amid a power struggle between pro-western Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic and hardliners loyal to her predecessor, Karadzic, who was indicted for war crimes allegedly committed against Bosnian Muslims in the civil war in the former Yugoslav republic.

Clark said in Washington yesterday that NATO will use all means necessary, including lethal means, "to protect our forces and continue our mission".

Meanwhile, NATO says U.S. peacekeeping troops in Bosnia have pulled out of a guard post at a bridge in the North Bosnian-Serb controlled town of Brcko.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Cronin, a spokesman for the NATO-led peace stabilization force, today confirmed SFOR troops were no longer at a checkpoint at the south end of Brcko bridge. Cronin said the withdrawal would free up SFOR soldiers to conduct roving patrols throughout the Brcko area, while still covering the bridge.

Cronin also said the move was in no way connected to last week's street violence in Brcko, in which two U.S. soldiers were injured by a hostile crowd wielding wooden planks and hurling bricks.

U.S. troops moved into Brcko and four other Northern towns last week, saying they had word that men loyal to President Plavsic aimed to take over police stations by force. Violence later broke out after crowds reportedly organized by rival troops loyal Karadzic massed against the U.S. troops.

Yesterday, the top international envoy to Bosnia criticized anew the Bosnian Serbs for obstructing the Dayton peace process.

Carlos Westendorp said that the Bosnian Serbs were blocking Dayton's progress by carrying out a power struggle and not participating in Bosnia's federal institutions. Westendorp also said Bosnia's municipal elections set for September 13-14 would take place whether or not Serb hardliners go ahead with a planned boycott.

Westendorp spoke in Belgrade after meeting with President Milosevic, who signed the 1995 accords on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs.

Milosevic said in a statement that he was calling on Bosnian Serb leaders to attend sessions of joint federal institutions and participate in the upcoming local elections.