December 9, 1995
Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EST (2240 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- Representatives of 40 nations are meeting in London this weekend to iron out the details of implementing the Bosnian peace accord. And France opened the conference by delivering an ultimatum to the Bosnian Serbs: give up two French pilots who were shot down August 30, or be "hit."
"These are our boys, on a NATO mission, and NATO is sending in more troops," Jacques Rummelhardt, a spokesman for the French delegation to the conference told reporters. "We have said we would hit those who have these pilots."
Rummelhardt gave the Bosnian Serbs until Sunday to produce the pilots, believed to be held in the Serb stronghold Pale, or say what happened to them.
The French stance on the issue -- increasingly hard-line in recent days -- could pose a problem to the peace process. Chief U.S. negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, discussed the problem with Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic Saturday.
"We expressed our high concern on behalf of the United States and France that the two French pilots held by Bosnian Serbs must be released," Holbrooke said after the meeting. "It would not be desirable to go into details of the conversation, but we attached highest importance to the issue."
The conference appointed former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt to head the efforts aimed at reconstructing Bosnia and resettling 2.1 million refugees. An American, Michael Steiner, was named Bildt's deputy.
In troop movements, an advance deployment of 111 U.S. soldiers arrived at Taszar Air Base in Hungary on two C- 130 Hercules transport planes. The troops are largely logistical operators charged with setting up a "staging base" for approximately 20,000 U.S. troops bound for Bosnia.
Taszar's troop complement will eventually reach 3,000, stationed at the air base and nearby Kaposvar. About 1,000 of those will be engineers, and the rest logistical staff.
Heavy equipment is on the way to Taszar via rail from Germany. The equipment transports will travel through the Czech Republic and Slovakia on their way to Hungary.
"Trains are being loaded in Germany as we speak," said Col. Ron Williams, among the first to arrive Saturday.
One of those trains passed through Plzen, Czech Republic -- the birthplace of Pilsner lager beer. The half dozen troops guarding the equipment on board the train were the first U.S. troops to enter Plzen since May 1945, when U.S. troops liberated the city from the Germans near the end of World War II.
A C-130 cargo plane also arrived on Saturday in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina. That plane was carrying ground navigational equipment and personnel to set it up.
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