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1996: US peacekeepers pour into Bosnia

VIDEO : American soldiers arrive in Bosnia

The first convoy of American combat troops has entered Northern Bosnia to try to keep the peace between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims, following the signing of the Dayton peace plan last month.

Commander of Nato armed forces in Bosnia, Admiral Leighton Smith, appeared on Bosnian Serb TV to try to reassure Serbs the alliance would be even-handed in implementing the agreement.

American army units with high artillery have taken over a strategically important road that separates the two communities, but US soldiers will not be deployed in the most dangerous areas.

Americans in Bosnia now number 2,000, representing the superpower's first military operation in Europe since World War II.

Confrontation line

Lt Col Greg Stone, commander of the 1st Cavalry's 1st Squadron, said: "This is another step, another chapter in history".

Progress has been slowed by the bad weather, which has turned the US base into a muddy bog. The troops are said to be behind schedule.

The troops are headed to Tuzla air base, the main US base in Bosnia, where they will then be assigned to 16 bases, set up on both sides of the confrontation line.

The exact sites for some of the bases are still being worked on by military planners, officials said.

In Sarajevo the Joint Military Commission, bringing together peacekeepers and the warring parties, met to discuss the disbanding of civilian armed groups and the clearance of mines.

In Context
The deployment of American troops as part of an international peacekeeping force followed the signing of the Dayton peace accord in December 1995.

It created two entities of roughly equal size, one for Bosnian Muslims and Croats, the other for Serbs.

The agreement managed to impose a lasting - if uneasy - peace in the region. Real stability was only achieved when the political landscape changed and the war leaders went.

Franjo Tudjman died in 1999, Alija Izetbegovic stepped down in 2001 and Slobodan Milosevic was put on trial at The Hague a year later for war crimes.

The new, more moderate, governments met at a summit in July 2002 - the first time the countries' leaders had sat round the same table since the accord was signed.


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