Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nato: `We Did What We Said We Would Do'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nato: `We Did What We Said We Would Do'

Article excerpt

For once, the Bosnian Serb pilots were caught in the act.

For almost a year, NATO has scoured the skies and filtered through unconfirmed reports, watching and waiting for a clear violation of a U.N.-imposed no-fly zone.

When it came, NATO and its warplanes did not hesitate to use force and carry out the organization's first combat action since it came into existence 44 years ago.

Only two weeks ago, NATO took a new, tougher approach to Bosnia's war with an ultimatum of Bosnian Serbs: Withdraw your heavy guns from around the besieged capital of Sarajevo or face air strikes. The guns were withdrawn.

Those events, along with the decision to return the aircraft carrier Saratoga to the Adriatic Sea, suggest that NATO is increasingly using its military presence to push for settlements among the three warring sides in Bosnia.

But NATO officials said Monday's air action was not a result of any new resolve by the 16-nation alliance or by the American, French, British, Dutch and Turkish jet fighters covering the no-fly zone.

This time the Serbian pilots just did everything wrong.

"We did what we said we would do," said U.S. Adm. Jeremy M. Boorda, commander of NATO's Southern European forces in Naples, Italy. "Violations of the no-fly zone simply will not be tolerated.

"I would hope that the warring factions would understand that and that their response would be not to violate again. That would be a responsible way to take this."

Previous violations were mainly by helicopters or fixed-wing planes on short, non-combat missions transporting personnel or equipment. When challenged by NATO fliers, they landed or left Bosnian airspace.

"This was the first time it was a unit of armed planes in formation," British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said of the Serbian planes.

That, he said, marked a "difference in quality" that forced pilots in the two U.S. Air Force F-16 Falcons to launch their missiles against the Serb raiders Monday over central Bosnia.

NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner told Germany's ZDF television that this was the first time in a year that the alliance had clearly determined a violation of the no-fly zone by fighter planes. …

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