Serbia pledges end to horrors

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The Independent Online
FACED with mounting revulsion worldwide, Serbian leaders pledged yesterday to dismantle or at least open to free access detention camps in Serbia or Serb-controlled areas of Bosnia.

There were discrepancies between the statements of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Milan Panic, who described himself as 'leader of all Serbs', and the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic. But both appeared to have been jolted into action by signs that the rest of the world may be leaning towards some form of military intervention in Bosnia.

When informed of gruesome television footage of emaciated prisoners at a Serb-run camp in Bosnia, Mr Panic said: 'If that is true, it simply has to be stopped. The camps will have to be dismantled. I give myself 30 days to do so.' As always, Mr Panic was ambiguous about the relationship between Serbs in Bosnia and those in Serbia proper, which now, with Montenegro, makes up the rump state of Yugoslavia. He and the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, often claim to have no control over the Bosnian Serbs.

Yesterday, however, Mr Panic insisted: 'I'm going to order Karadzic to close down the camps. I'm the leader of all Serbs in the world. If he doesn't, he will have to resign. If I find a single concentration camp it will be dismantled on the spot, the gates thrown open the same day and those reponsible brought to justice. I will use the army if necessary.'

Mr Karadzic denied that Croat or Muslim prisoners were systematically killed or tortured but conceded that conditions in detention centres were bad. He pledged 'unlimited, continuous and unannounced access' to detention camps by the International Red Cross and promised an inquiry into alleged atrocities.