Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freed Soldiers Cross into Serbia Security Official Expects Remaining U.N. Hostages to Be out Soon

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freed Soldiers Cross into Serbia Security Official Expects Remaining U.N. Hostages to Be out Soon

Article excerpt

Two buses carrying 108 U.N. soldiers freed by the Bosnian Serbs crossed into Serbia early today.

The freed hostages are soldiers from Britain, France, Ukraine and Spain. And yet, about 150 U.N. soldiers remain in Bosnian Serb hands, and about 180 others are surrounded by Bosnian Serb forces.

A Serbian official who accompanied the freed U.N. soldiers out of Bosnia said he expected the remaining hostages still held by the Bosnian Serbs to be released "very soon."

"We have been continuing our mission for releasing members of the United Nations," Jovica Stanisic, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's state security chief, told reporters in the pouring rain at the Mali Zvornik border post. "We are convinced that among the leadership of (the self-styled Bosnian Serb republic) there is a positive atmosphere concerning the international community."

The freed U.N. soldiers were being taken to the Serbian town of Novi Sad, about 30 miles north of Belgrade, Stanisic said. He refused to allow reporters to talk to the released soldiers.

The Bosnian Serbs seized hundreds of U.N. hostages after two NATO air raids on their ammunition dumps May 25 and 26, and initially demanded guarantees of no more NATO airstrikes before agreeing to release any of the hostages. The news agency BETA quoted a Bosnian Serb source as saying they had received assurances from NATO that there would be no more air raids. There was no independent confirmation.

Asked whether the Bosnian Serbs had received anything in return for the release of the hostages, Stanisic replied: "I can't answer that. Our only task is to help in this crisis."

A first group of 121 peacekeepers was released last Friday after pressure from Serbian President Milosevic on his erstwhile proteges in the Bosnian Serb leadership. No Lull In Fighting

Fighting continued Tuesday amid the diplomatic maneuvering. Two civilians were killed and one wounded when five shells hit the northwestern Bosnian city of Bihac, a U.N. declared "safe area."

There also was fighting near the eastern Muslim enclave of Gorazde, and two people were wounded by sniper fire in Sarajevo.

Meanwhile, about 1,500 U.S. soldiers and 100 attack helicopters were preparing to move from Germany to Italy, and world leaders debated the role of a rapid deployment force of up to 10,000 British, French and Dutch soldiers. …

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