Negotiations Continue To Free Monitor Writer Held by Bosnian Serbs

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

EFFORTS continued at press time to win the release of Monitor correspondent David Rohde, who is being held by Bosnian Serbs in the northeast Bosnian town of Bijeljina.

On Saturday, Rohde spoke by phone with family members who were gathered in Dayton, Ohio, along with Monitor editors, to meet with American and Bosnian Serb officials. The phone call came during a meeting between Monitor International News Editor Clayton Jones, Rohde family members, and Bosnian Serb representative Nikola Koljevic at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

Rohde's brothers, Lee and Erik, and sister, Laura, spoke to him for several minutes, and "were very encouraged and relieved to know he was alive and well," according to a Monitor statement released to the press.

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"Both the fact that this meeting took place and the steps we expect to flow from it are most encouraging," said Monitor Editor David Cook.

The family and Monitor staff members also met with US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke and US Ambassador to Bosnia John Menzies.

Rohde was last heard from Oct. 28, when he left for Bosnian Serb territory to report on massacres of Muslim civilians by Bosnian Serbs.

Bosnian Serb officials first officially confirmed holding Rohde at a Saturday meeting with UN Protection Force officials in Lukavica, a suburb south of Sarajevo. UN spokesman Yuri Chizhik said the Bosnian Serbs told UN officials Rohde was in good condition.

On Friday evening the Bosnian Serb press center issued a statement saying that Rohde had been detained by Bosnian Serb authorities for "illegal border crossing and staying on the territory of the Republika Srpska and for falsifying documents." It said the matter had been referred to the "competent court."

"Until we are able to talk to Mr. Rohde directly, we are uncertain whether he had a proper permit for traveling in Bosnian Serb territory," Cook said. The United States and United Nations take the official position that they do not recognize the rebel Bosnian Serb republic.

Earlier Friday, Bosnian Serb officials meeting with the UN had denied holding Rohde.

The news agency report followed a strong statement from US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns in Washington. "The United States demands the immediate release of Mr. Rohde. He has been unjustly detained," Mr Burns told reporters. "We are angered by the fact that for five days now we have had no word from the Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale as to his whereabouts and to his welfare."

In Boston, Monitor Editor Cook thanked those helping in the effort to obtain Rohde's release. "The Monitor and the Rohde family are extremely grateful for the assistance we have been receiving from United States and United Nations officials, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and our journalistic colleagues here and in Bosnia," he said. "It is our hope that UN and US officials will be able to meet with Rohde soon and bring him home."

Last August, Rohde was the first Western reporter to confirm the existence of mass graves of Muslims massacred by Bosnian Serbs after the fall of the Bosnian government enclave of Srebrenica. Later, he talked with eyewitnesses and survivors who confirmed that the massacres of several thousand Muslim men and boys had taken place. The United Nations has since confirmed the massacre reports.

Rohde, the Monitor's East European correspondent, has been based in Zagreb, Croatia, since November 1994. Prior to his European stint, he covered national news for the Monitor over six months, reporting from Boston, New York, and Washington. He also edited for a time on the National and Feature desks.

Prior to joining the Monitor staff, Rohde served as a county and municipal reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer from July 1993 to June 1994. He has also worked as a free-lance reporter, writing from the Baltic republics, Cuba, and Syria.

He also served as a production associate for ABC New Turning Point from January to July 1993, and was production secretary for ABC News World News Tonight from June 1990 to August 1991.

Rohde is unmarried. He was graduated from Brown University in Providence, R.I.

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