BY MAURICE WILLIAMS
As tensions escalate in Yugoslavia, U.S. president William Clinton extended the U.S. military occupation in Bosnia for an additional 18 months. "In principle the United States will take part in a follow-on force in Bosnia," he said on November 15 at the White House. The president said the "new mission" would require "about 8,500" U.S. soldiers in Bosnia as part of the NATO operation under "an American commander and tough rules of engagement." Clinton's announcement followed a November 14 conference in Paris which included Bosnia's three co-presidents. Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim chairman of Bosnia's presidency, and his Serbian and Croatian counterparts, Momcilo Krajisnik and Kresimir Zubak, were pressed to comply completely with the Dayton agreement crafted by Washington last December or face punitive measures. They endorsed a 13-point plan from the accord, which includes the "creation of a free market economy," the Washington Post reported.
Meanwhile, conditions in Serbia are becoming more unstable as some 100,000 protesters marched in the streets of Belgrade to protest attempts by President Slobodan Milosevic to annul the results of recent local elections. ]
Thousands of students have participated in recent demonstrations in Serbia and Croatia, as imperialist forces prolong their military operations in the Balkans.
"Our recommendation now is that the mission end in June 1998, and that shortly thereafter, all troops withdraw from there," declared U.S. Gen. John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The general said the GIs would be included in a reduced imperialist force of 31,000 troops, with 5,000 soldiers from other countries stationed outside Bosnia.
The 20,000 U.S. troops were among the 60,000-strong NATO force sent to Yugoslavia a year ago to impose a partition of Bosnia. They were originally scheduled to leave on December 20.
While touting the military operation as a "success," Clinton said "the rebuilding of the fabric of Bosnia's economic and political life is taking longer than anticipated" and requires extending Washington's occupation force there.
This highlights the fact that the occupying imperialist powers in Washington, Bonn, Paris, and London continue to face obstacles in their aim to overthrow the workers state in Yugoslavia and reestablish capitalist property relations there.
Recently, the German government announced plans to
increase its troop deployment to Bosnia next year, making Bonn
among the largest military forces there for the first time.
Confrontation with U.S. soldiers
The Paris meeting followed a confrontation between U.S. soldiers and Bosnian civilians. The incident began on November 11 when some 600 Bosnian refugees trying to return to their former homes entered the village of Gajevi, located in the 2.5-mile "Zone of Separation" patrolled by NATO troops. A firefight began and the next day chauvinist Serb reportedly fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms. Bosnian forces responded by firing four mortar rounds into Koraj, a Serb-held town. One person was killed and 10 wounded in battles that lasted two days.
Combat involving GIs almost ensued when U.S. Army troops with helicopter backing and a company of Russian infantry soldiers moved to disarm the combatants. A U.S. military convoy of some 50 vehicles, including four tanks and several armored fighting vehicles raided a Bosnian Army camp on November 14 and confiscated several tons of weapons and ammunition. According to the New York Times, the commander of the Bosnian army base was ordered by his superior officers to resist U.S. forces attempting to take weaponry.
Masses of people mobilized to confront the U.S. military force. A videotape made of the incident reportedly shows GIs scuffling with civilians and pointing their rifles at them. Bottles were thrown at the soldiers.
U.S. military officials claim the raid was done to punish
Bosnian authorities for allegedly fomenting combat with the
Serb forces when refugees attempted to return home. Bosnian
officials announced November 19 the dismissal of deputy
defense minister Hasan Cengic at Washington's demand. U.S.
officials complained that Cengic has too close ties with the
Tensions mounting in Serbia
Tensions are mounting in Serbia as well. Some 30,000 people marched in Belgrade to protest the annulment of 43 out of 60 city council seats by Serbia president Slobadan Milosevic on November 24. Three days earlier, some 20,000 protesters marched against the cancellations. The four-party opposition coalition, called Zajedno, claimed victory November 17 in the municipal elections.
Elsewhere in Yugoslavia, a stalemate developed when the Bosnian Serb Army refused to recognized Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic's November 9 dismissal of military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic and other top officers. About 100 high ranking officers issued a statement November 11 saying they will continue to support Mladic. "When the new army chief called a meeting of military commanders, no one showed up," editors of the Wall Street Journal complained. The power struggle took another twist when army officers seized control over a TV transmitter on Mt. Zep in eastern Bosnia the next day.
Meanwhile, in Croatia, more than 100,000 demonstrators, including the Zagreb's Students Association, rallied on November 21 against the closing of "Radio 101," Croatia's last independent radio station. The protest forced the regime of President Franjo Tudjman to reverse its November 20 decision to close down the station.
A few days earlier, a Clinton administration official told
the Associated Press that Tudjman, who is suffering from
cancer, was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center, the U.S.
Army's top medical facility.
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