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Former Yugoslavia: OSCE Satisfied With Arms Reduction Program

Vienna, 21 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) says it is "very satisfied" with the success of its program for reducing the number of heavy weapons in Bosnia, Croatia and the former Yugoslavia.

A meeting at OSCE headquarters in Vienna was told today that more than 6,500 weapons had been destroyed in Bosnia, Croatia, the Republika Srpska and the former Yugoslavia by October 31.

The figure includes more than 700 battle tanks, 80 armored combat vehicles, 60 combat aircraft and more than 5,700 pieces of artillery.

The OSCE official in charge of the arms control program, Vigleik Eide of Norway, told the meeting the arms reduction had been highly successful.

"This should be considered a milestone in the peace process," he said.

He said all the warring parties deserved recognition for having come so far. Eide said that in some areas the number of weapons destroyed exceeded the limits originally agreed on.

The arms reduction program was an important element of the Dayton peace agreement. The Dayton negotiators asked OSCE to oversee the reductions because of its experience in negotiating arms reductions in western and eastern Europe.

The warring parties appear to have now reduced their heavy weapons to the ceilings agreed under the Dayton accords. These ceilings came into effect on November 1 and will remain in force for the unlimited duration of the Dayton Agreement.

Eide also told today's meeting that other parts of the Dayton military agreements are also being successfully implemented. These include confidence-building measures such as routine exchanges of information about the military forces. OSCE officials said this included information about the type of weapons assigned to different units and the location of military units. The Dayton agreements placed restrictions on the deployment of forces in areas where they might create alarm in neighboring countries.

The Dayton accords also require inspections of the armed forces of each of the warring parties to ensure that the agreements are being honored. Eide told today's meeting that there had been 185 inspections since August last year.

A senior OSCE official said after today's meeting that the success of the weapons reductions and other programs meant that an important piece of the Dayton peace agreement was now in place.

"We sincerely hope this will reduce the possibility of any new outbreak of fighting between the parties." he said. "Inspections will continue to ensure that the forces are kept at their present level, or even lower. OSCE will also continue to monitor the location of forces and try ensure that none are placed in areas which could create tensions with other parties."