NATO, Serbs Agree Over TV Transmitter

BRCKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Backers of war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic pledged Tuesday to temper a vicious media campaign against foreign organizations in Bosnia if NATO troops hand a transmitter back to Bosnian Serb television.


Seeking a breather in their struggle over the media, Karadzic backers signed an agreement aimed at ending confrontations between stone-throwing Bosnian Serbs and the NATO-led peace force.


In the latest such clash Monday, a mob challenged U.S. soldiers guarding the transmitter. The soldiers -- part of the peace force -- fired a tear gas canister after the crowd grew to 350 and temporarily detained four demonstrators before handing them over to Bosnian Serb police. There were no injuries.


The soldiers moved on the transmitter on Mount Majevica, 150 kilometers east of Banja Luka on Thursday, after backers of Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb leader, broadcast calls for violence against foreign organizations. Officially, NATO said the transmitter was secured to prevent opposing Serb factions from battling for its control.


Even as the media war eased, potential conflict was building on another front. With Karadzic backers apparently ignoring a Sunday deadline putting tight restrictions on heavily armed special police, a NATO spokesman, Major Chris Riley, said the peace force "will undertake appropriate action'' against them.


Karadzic depends on special police units to guard him against any attempt by NATO commandos to seize him and fly him to trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague in the Netherlands.


The NATO-led peacekeeping force is increasingly embroiled in the split between Karadzic and supporters of Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, who accuses her former mentor of keeping the people poor while illegally enriching himself.


With many Bosnian Serbs depending exclusively on television and radio for their information, control of transmitters and other broadcasting equipment has assumed primary importance for the rival Bosnian Serb camps.


Because the Western powers increasingly back Plavsic -- the only Bosnian Serb leader who will honor Bosnia's peace accords -- NATO had been expected to hand control of the transmitter to her supporters.


But an agreement made available by the Karadzic camp had NATO letting pro-Karadzic broadcasters use the facility again if they tempered their anti-NATO and United Nations propaganda.


Specifically, the agreement committed pro-Karadzic television to stop "inflammatory'' campaigns against foreign organizations and agree to one daily, one-hour broadcast of "other political opinions.''


Karadzic backers also agreed to let senior mediator Carlos Westendorp explain the recent NATO-Serb confrontations on air without any editorializing on their part and cooperate with his commission monitoring their broadcasts.


The copy of the agreement carried the signature of Major General David Grange, the American commanding Multinational Division North, the area of the most recent confrontations. He confirmed he had signed the agreement.


Subsequently, Radio B-92, in Belgrade, and Bosnian Serb radio said television in Pale had resumed transmitting.