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NATO'S Smith Blames Serb Leaders for Destruction of Sarajevo Suburbs
Smith Defends NATO Actions During
Violent Withdrawal by Bosnian Serbs

Admiral Leighton Smith (BUDAPEST, March 19—Reuters) The commander of NATO-led forces in Bosnia said on Tuesday that Serb leaders were to blame for destruction in Sarajevo caused by Serbs fleeing returning Bosnian Muslims. U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith said after a meeting with Hungarian Defence Minister Gyorgy Keleti that the IFOR peace implementation forces had done everything within their power to protect areas of the Bosnian capital vacated by Serbs but were thwarted by Serbian leaders. "We increased our presence there," Smith told a news conference. "But even if I had put an IFOR soldier in front of every building I still could not have prevented someone from starting a fire because I can't go into the building... and I cannot stop a dedicated arsonist."

Smith said the signatories to the U.S.-brokered accord which ended the conflict in former Yugoslavia had failed to force police and firefighters to do their jobs to protect houses, factories and other buildings destroyed by Serbs before they left. "I'm not blaming this on the international community, I'm, blaming it on the parties that signed the agreement," Smith said. "I believe the Serbs should have put their police in there. They should have maintained order."

Frustrated by Serb Police
Smith said his forces in the Grbavica area of Sarajevo ago detained 12 people suspected of arson and turned them over to Serb police who immediately released them. "That's not responsible police action," he said. Smith added that the international effort to rebuild former Yugoslavia was working well from a military perspective but was more bogged down on the civilian front. "I believe we can be successful in a year but it will require an accelerated civilian building program," he said.

"Everybody understands that what we really need to see are visible signs of construction. Everyone wants that to happen if the money can be found and that's a problem but I believe that will be possible. The other part, the political process, I believe we have to watch... but I feel very comfortable that the military side of this is going very, very well and we are now looking very closely at how we can assist further the civilian organizations."

Hungary, although it is not a member of NATO, has provided two bases as staging areas for the peace implementation operation in Bosnia and has sent a 400-strong engineering battalion to build bridges and repair roads.

Additional resources
Weekend from Hell as Grbavica Serbs Burn and Shatter Hope
Weekend of Violence Rocks Grbavica
Even Die-Hard Serbs are Now Fleeing Sarajevo Suburbs

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