How Nato force would try to police a deal

CHRISTOPHER BELLAMY

Defence Correspondent

The first Nato troops of the peace-implementation force for Bosnia would have been on their way immediately a peace agreement was reached. But it would take more than three months for the whole 60,000-strong force to arrive. The plan was for them to remain for a year, though that could have been extended.

Should a deal still be reached and the the force does go in, it would operate differently from the UN, which went into Bosnia to escort humanitarian aid and got out of the way when local parties attacked each other. Nato's role would be to keep the warring sides apart, by force if necessary. It would have more "robust" rules of engagement allowing it to fire if local parties break a ceasefire.

It is hoped there will be a two-mile wide demilitarised zone between the sides, although that would take time to establish, with Nato units deployed at key junctions and vantage points. However, the peace line would stretch 600 miles across some of the steepest and most difficult country in Europe so, unlike the UN force, the Nato troops would make extensive use of helicopters. The Nato plan divides the Bosnian pie into three roughly equal segments, cutting across the present front lines between warring factions.

In the first fortnight, the "enabling force" of about 2,000 headquarters staff from all Nato's 16 countries would arrive in Bosnia by air. It would include staff officers, signals troops, and engineers to set up the expanded headquarters needed by the force. Then the Nato corps commander, British Lieutenant General Mike Walker, would arrive in Sarajevo and take over command from the UN Protection Force.

At this time, those UN troops already in Bosnia who are being "converted" to Nato status would swap blue helmets for Nato camouflage. It would take another three months for the rest of the 60,000 to reach former Yugoslavia and deploy along either side of a four kilometre-wide demilitarised zone between the former warring factions. The Nato planners' job has been complicated because they have not known exactly how the territory would be divided between the Serbs and the Muslim-Croat federation in a peace settlement.

They have had to work on the basis of the present areas of control. Although there were expected to be exchanges of territory, it has been assumed that the areas of control would not change greatly.

Gen Walker's headquarters would be in Sarajevo, possibly at the Olympic stadium, though that would require much more work before it was ready for the 2,500-strong corps headquarters and supporting troops.

The US 1st Armoured Division, based at Grafenwohr in Germany, would move in via Hungary with two brigades of tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and a brigade of Apache attack helicopters to monitor the northern area, based at Tuzla. The French 6th Division, based at Mostar, would be responsible for the south east of the country, including Sarajevo. The headquarters of the British 3rd Division commanded by Major General Mike Jackson would be at Gornji Vakuf, an area familiar to the British from three years as UN peace-keepers.

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