NATO Cracks Down on Serb Media

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- NATO has seized a transmitter run by backers of war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic to punish them for broadcasting calls for violence against foreign organizations in Bosnia, officials said Monday. Troops took control Thursday of the Udrigovo transmitter on Mount Majevica to bar rival Serb factions fighting for its control, said Maj. Chris Riley, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. Later, 27 armed men thought loyal to Karadzic showed up and NATO troops stripped them of 25 unauthorized long-barreled weapons and sent them away, NATO sources said. An unarmed group that appeared later and was thought loyal to Karadzic's rival, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic was also turned back, NATO officials said. The transmitter has been locked since foreign troops moved in and international officials are discussing who is in charge of it. But there seemed little doubt that control eventually would fall to the pro-Plavsic forces that now have strong backing from international envoys and the peace force. Five more transmitters on Serb territory likely will be secured by NATO, sources for the military alliance said. 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. Supporters of Plavsic -- a former Karadzic ally who now accuses him of corruption -- have a few transmitters, but most are still run by pro-Karadzic Bosnian Serb television and radio. On Friday, NATO formally authorized action against Bosnian Serb media after local radio stations incited Karadzic supporters to attack peace forces in and around the Serb-held town of Brcko. Ensuing violence in Brcko last Thursday injured two U.S. soldiers and several Serbs after U.S. forces moved onto the streets to prevent clashes between police loyal to Karadzic and Plavsic. Brcko sits astride the narrow corridor that divides the western, pro-Plavsic part of Serb-held Bosnia from the eastern territory controlled by Karadzic. The town is Serb-held but its final status is unresolved. The Serbs could lose it altogether if the Karadzic faction angers the international community further. On Thursday, Brcko radio station "issued a direct call to arms,'' said Westendorp's spokesman, Duncan Bullivant. "We can't allow [that] to happen again.'' Thirty armed men thought loyal to Karadzic appeared on Brcko streets Monday. In addition, international officials and local sources reported arrests and harassment of Serbs who have come out for Plavsic in the power tussle. UN police in Bosnia had set Sunday as the deadline for all special police forces to disband, or register with the United Nations. That has not happened, paving the way for peace force troops to stop movement by groups identified as members of Karadzic's security force and to confiscate weapons.