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Bosnia: NATO-Russia Officials Will Increase Troop Strength

Brussels, 24 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russia and other partners in the SFOR, operating to keep the peace in Bosnia, agreed today with NATO to authorize what was called "a modest increase" in SFOR troop strength.

Our correspondent reports this is to be a temporary measure during the period of the coming elections in Republika Srpska. Russian agreement was given today at a meeting of the NATO-Russia joint ambassadorial council, with Ambassador Vitaly Churkin leading the Russian delegation.

At two sessions this week, NATO representatives discussed Bosnia, in light of reports presented personally by American General Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. The meeting resolved to keep up pressure on the authorities in Pale, particularly related to media freedom, and the disbanding of special police forces.

One NATO official told our correspondent that the Alliance "remains vigilent that Republika Srpska television will no longer present one political tendency with a monopoly."

As for the special police, NATO officials argue they are not police in the ordinary sense of the word, and should, therefore, either be disbanded, or labeled as military forces -- but, coming under all the rules of the Dayton Accords.

"One way or another they must change," said a NATO official, "as special police, they cannot continue."

NATO officials also continued to stress the importance of implementing the results of the recent local elections in Bosnia. They said there is a clear link between setting up multi-communal councils, and the willingness and ability of refugees to return home.