NATO starts peacekeeping in Bosnia.
SARAJEVO – NATO forces formally began their year-long peacekeeping mission in Bosnia on Wednesday, taking over from the United Nations at a ceremony at Sarajevo’s airport.
U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, commander of the NATO operation, was unable to attend the ceremony due to poor weather conditions. The official signing ceremony marking the transfer of military authority which was to occur during the morning ceremony was rescheduled for approximately 3 p.m. local time so that Smith can attend.
The formal hand-over was announced by U.N. Commander General Bertrand Janvier and Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Walker, head of NATO ground forces in Bosnia.
The ceremony clears a path for the deployment of 60,000 NATO troops who will begin setting up their military operations for the mission to enforce the Dayton Accord.
NATO forces have been preparing for the hand-over for the last two weeks. The familiar white United Nations vehicles have been painted military green, and in Tuzla Wednesday a sign identifying the U.N. airbase was removed to be replaced by a sign for the U.N. Implementation Force.
The transfer marks the end of the U.N.’s ill-fated three-and-a-half year peacekeeping mission and the start of the largest NATO operation in alliance history.