Allies seize 4 TV transmitters, silencing Karadzic party outlet Raids follow broadcast doctored to say tribunal on war crimes is anti-Serb

October 02, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- NATO-led peacekeepers seized yesterday four key television transmitters controlled by hard-line Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, putting his party's television station off the air because it had refused to end attacks against international organizations working in Bosnia.

The troops surrounded the transmitters in an early-morning operation that came in response to broadcasts Sunday night suggesting that the United Nations war crimes tribunal is anti-Serb. It followed repeated warnings to the Bosnian Serbs to end their propaganda campaign against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

The last straw, the officials said, was a broadcast in which footage of a U.N. official's news conference was dubbed so that she appeared, falsely, to be admitting that the war crimes tribunal was politically biased against the Serbs.

Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president, has been indicted on genocide charges by the tribunal but continues to exercise political influence from his headquarters in Pale.

Karadzic and his allies are locked in a power struggle with Biljana Plavsic, the elected president of the Bosnian Serb republic who governs from Banja Luka and has the support of NATO. A television studio in Banja Luka is loyal to her.

Senior international officials said their goal was to force a restructuring of the Pale broadcast studio that would guarantee the presentation of a more balanced view of events. If that happened, they said, the studio could return to the air and share broadcast time with the studio controlled by Plavsic.

Gen. Wesley Clark, the American supreme commander of NATO, told reporters in Maastricht, Netherlands, that broadcasts would resume soon but under "new management," and that in the meantime the four transmitters would be turned over to supporters of Plavsic.

The operation differed markedly from a bungled attempt by U.S. troops in August to seize a transmitter on Mount Kozora near the Bosnian Serb town of Prijedor. In that operation, the troops had to withdraw after mobs of Karadzic supporters, many of them policemen in civilian clothes, gathered at the site and attacked -- the soldiers with clubs and stones.

Heavy security was set up near the towers yesterday to prevent people from reaching the sites.

NATO officials in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, said the troops were American, French, Italian, Scandinavian and Polish. Russian troops also took part in setting up roadblocks at several locations.

Under an agreement reached Sept. 2, the hard-liners in Pale agreed to stop inciting viewers against any international presence, including the 35,000 peacekeepers.

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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