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Croatia, Serbia Promise Three Will Stand Trial for Alleged War Crimes

By William Drozdiak
The Washington Post

The leaders of Croatia and Serbia promised Monday to send three senior military officers to The Hague by the end of this month to stand trial for alleged war crimes, marking a significant boost in their cooperation on what is deemed one of the most sensitive issues of the Bosnia peace accords.

The joint agreement, which calls for Zagreb to dispatch a Croatian general suspected of mass murder and Belgrade to deliver two Bosnian Serb officers accused of ordering the killing of Muslim civilians in Srebrenica last summer, was hailed by U.S. officials as an encouraging breakthrough at a time when efforts to carry out the American-brokered peace agreement have reached a critical threshold.

After nearly eight hours of talks here with Balkan leaders, Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced the extradition deal along with a package of other measures, including stepped-up NATO patrols in the troubled Sarajevo suburbs, designed to sustain the cease-fire, accelerate recovery from four years of war and prepare free elections in Bosnia by the end of this summer.

The meeting, which brought together Presidents Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and acting President Ejup Ganic of Bosnia, was arranged to mark the separation of belligerents achieved during the three months since NATO's 60,000-strong peacekeeping force began arriving in Bosnia to implement the agreement reached last fall in Dayton, Ohio.

"The killing has ended, the armies have withdrawn," Christopher said at a news conference. "This is an extraordinary accomplishment, one that many thought would never be possible."

There were strong fears that the next phase of fortifying the peace and laying the groundwork for a lasting reconciliation between the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb republic within Bosnia will prove far more daunting.

The fragile alliance between the Muslims and Croats shows signs of collapsing over rival claims to the southern city of Mostar and a reluctance to create a joint government. Meanwhile, the chaotic departure of tens of thousands of Bosnian Serbs from Sarajevo suburbs has strengthened the belief of many Bosnians that any hopes of reviving their multiethnic state are rapidly fading.

"My main worry is that the forces of ethnic separation still are far stronger than the forces of ethnic reintegration," said Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister who oversees the civilian side of the peace process.