Going deeper into Bosnia Arms seizure: Taking sides in Serb power struggle to save the Dayton accord.


WHEN 350 heavily armed British and Czech soldiers, supported by United States helicopter gunships, invaded and disarmed six Bosnian Serb police stations in Banja Luka on Wednesday, they accomplished several things. The most decisive was dismembering the little Bosnian Serb republic of Srpska into two fiercely rival enclaves.

In northern Bosnia, Biljana Plavsic is recognized as president, though without loyal forces. The other enclave is centered on Pale in eastern Bosnia, where the former president and indicted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, rules as undisputed boss.

Had the NATO-directed troops not taken over these police stations, Ms. Plavsic would have been overwhelmed by Mr. Karadzic's thugs. The seizures included heavy-infantry weapons for a force of 2,000 and enough bugging equipment to deprive her of any secrets.

Ms. Plavsic had been a loyal subordinate of the Bosnian Serb nationalist leader and was elevated to succeed him in the presidency when the Dayton accord and his indictment made that necessary. But she has begun to take herself seriously.

When Ms. Plavsic denounced Mr. Karadzic's corrupt business stranglehold on eastern Bosnia, her fate was sealed. Judge Jovo Rosic of the "constitutional court" surfaced after the military raid to tell how this works. That court of Karadzic stooges was about to rule Ms. Plavsic's dissolution of parliament for new elections as illegal when Judge Rosic, who wanted to vote the other way, was beaten to a pulp so he could not participate.

The heavily armed raid on the police stations went unopposed. Since the Bosnian crisis began, Serb president Slobodan Milosevic and the protege he is willing to sell out, Dr. Karadzic, have mocked Western warnings but backed down before any display of force. Irresolution is spotted; resolution works.

These raids amounted to mission creep, in the name of accomplishing goals so U.S. and other forces can leave by the middle of next year as promised. The need for such raids puts that deadline in doubt. It was also a hint that Dr. Karadzic may not be safe from arrest in Pale -- but only a hint. The real accomplishment was to make the Banja Luka region safer for its residents by reducing the area subject to Mr. Karadzic's rules.

Pub Date: 8/22/97

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