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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Top Mediator Warns Croat Secessionists

Sarajevo, 7 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The top international coordinator in Bosnia today warned that secessionist violence would not be tolerated as NATO-led peacekeepers removed arms they suspected could be seized by Croat nationalists. Wolfgang Petritsch, the international high representative in Bosnia, said robust steps will be taken against those responsible for yesterday's riots in Mostar and other Bosnian Croat strongholds in southwestern Bosnia.

Petritsch said that Bosnian Croat extremists yesterday took international and local officials hostage and threatened one of them with execution.

Riots broke out in Mostar and other Bosnian Croat strongholds in southwestern Bosnia, after peacekeepers and UN police seized 11 branches of a bank which was linked with Croatian hard-liners. At least 25 people were injured, including 21 peacekeepers.

NATO-led peacekeepers said they removed weapons overnight from army barracks at Vitez and Busovaca in central Bosnia, to prevent then being seized by Bosnian Croat secessionists.

Croatian President Stipe Mesic today condemned the riots, saying that every dispute must be resolved through the institutions of the Muslim-Croat federation.