Lights go back on as Nato takes command

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Associated Press

Sarajevo - More Nato troops and equipment poured into Bosnia yesterday as alliance commanders prepared to take over formal command of peace enforcement from the UN peace-keeping mission.

Six US cargo planes bringing troops and food supplies arrived at Tuzla, in northern Bosnia, where 20,000 American troops will be headquartered. Another aircraft brought an advance party of the 1,500 Russian peace-keepers, to be based in the American sector.

In Sarajevo, citizens rejoiced as warm light flooded the city, after the German ambassador, Johannes Presinger, threw the switch on a new power line mostly financed by Germany.

The German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, was supposed to inaugurate the new source of electricity, which was scarce throughout the war, but was unable to land on account of fog and snow at the airport. Sarajevans already refer to the electricity as "Kinkelpower".

"This is great - look at those lights, white, yellow, white, yellow," said Jasna Miletovic, 41, as she drove her car past Bosnian Serb positions less than 100 yards away. "This now looks like real peace."

Nato formally takes over peace-keeping duties from the UN at a ceremony in Sarajevo today. Major-General Sir Michael Walker, commander of Nato's Rapid Reaction Corps, which is helping to co-ordinate the transfer of command, landed in Sarajevo yesterday.

Unlike the lightly-armed UN peace-keepers who faced often insurmountable odds as war raged around it, the 60,000 Nato-led force (I-For) has a a peace plan signed by all the warring sides behind it.

"We've come to help them to implement their agreement," Gen Walker said. "We offer the chance of something that everybody wants - peace."

UN forces in Bosnia, numbering 24,000 at their peak, were at best able to help deliver humanitarian aid. At worst, they were harassed, shot at, taken hostage and accused of failing to protect Bosnian civilians from the tortures of almost four years of war that have left 200,000 dead or missing and more than 2 million homeless.

"I do not under-estimate the challenge, but I-For has been given the tools to do the job," Gen Walker said. He added Nato would be working "with Bosnian people evenhandedly to help create the environment in which the reconstruction of this country can take place".

Admiral Leighton Smith, the American commander of the Nato mission, will join Gen Walker at today's handover ceremony. Many of the UN troops from Nato countries will remain in Bosnia, swapping their blue berets for camouflage.

More US army engineers arrived in Croatia to prepare construction of a pontoon bridge across the Sava River to Bosnia. Once that is established, troops and equipment can move overland to Tuzla.

Despite heavy snow, a train with 67 engineers arrived in Zupanja, on the Croatian-Bosnian border. It also carried 40 vehicles and equipment. Four other trains were moving toward Zupanja and nearby Slavonski Brod, a Nato spokesman said in Zagreb.

Trying to make up for weather-related delays, a US Air Force advance team landed at Ferihegy airport in Budapest yesterday to establish landing facilities in the Hungarian capital. Fog has slowed landings of men and equipment at Taszar, in southern Hungary, where the US military is setting up a supply base for Bosnia-bound American troops.

n Belgrade - General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb army commander and a suspected war criminal, ranks high in favour in Serbia, according to a poll published yesterday, AP reports.

Gen Mladic, twice indicted for genocide by the UN tribunal dealing with war crimes in former Yugoslavia, trails only behind Serbia's President, Slobodan Milosevic, according to the popularity poll, conducted by the Belgrade-based Institute of Social Sciences.