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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moslem-Croat Police Walk Beat in Suburb

SARAJEVO -- Moslem-Croat federation police entered the formerly Serb-held suburb of Vogosca on Friday in Sarajevo after a chaotic exodus of thousands of Serb residents who refuse to live under federation rule.


Moslem-Croat police, accompanied by international police and NATO peacekeeping troops, drove into the northern suburb in the morning without problems, finding a virtual ghost town.


Serb authorities must hand over five Sarajevo suburbs to federation control under the Dayton peace agreement and Vogosca became the first to come under non-Serb police authority.


Fearing reprisals for the brutal siege of Sarajevo, thousands of Serb residents fled the suburb this week before the scheduled arrival of the Moslem-Croat police.


Only about 2,500 Serbs remained in Vogosca out of about 17,000, international police reported Thursday.


One hour after entering, federation police removed the separatist Serb flag from a pole outside the town hall and replaced it with Bosnia's white and blue fleur-de-lis.


Across the road, a busload of Serbs looked on glumly as they waited to leave for Serb territory.


Western negotiators had said the peace treaty signed in December would preserve Sarajevo as a multi-ethnic city of Moslems, Orthodox Christian Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats.


But the Serb flight seemed to have undermined those hopes.


International mediator Carl Bildt called the exodus a tragedy and said both Serb authorities and the Moslem-led Bosnian government were to blame.


"Most of the people have already left and I would expect that more will leave, which is a tragedy, a tragedy for the people," Bildt, the international community's High Representative to Bosnia, told reporters in Vogosca.


He added: "The entire aim of the peace process is to start trying to bring people together. What we see here is the country still falling apart."


Bildt said Bosnian Serb authorities had sown panic in the suburbs but said the Moslem-led government effort to persuade Serbs to stay was "too little, too late."


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was pressing the NATO-led Bosnian peace implementation force to open new roads out of the suburb of Vogosca to relieve congestion caused by the exodus.


UN Police Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald said the new federation police force in Vogosca had been screened by his men for its professional qualifications and ethnic mix.


The first police patrol in the town was to include 16 Moslems, 14 Serbs and two Croats -- a mix roughly mirroring the town's pre-war ethnic breakdown.


Meanwhile, Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Friday ordered all sanctions against the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic lifted.


The action, disclosed late Friday in a brief statement from Yeltsin's press service, makes Russia the first country to end sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs.


Yeltsin made the decision "proceeding from the fact that the Bosnian Serbs had complied with conditions set by the United Nations resolution of Nov. 22, 1995," his press service said.