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The West sent mixed signals Tuesday on their search for Bosnian Serb war-crime suspects, with the United States saying NATO was expanding its patrols but NATO officials denying that was the case.

"We haven't received any new specific guidance," NATO spokesman Maj. Simon Haselock said of reports that foreign troops would escalate their search for Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic.The confusion stemmed from comments by Secretary of State Warren Christopher that NATO troops would increase patrols to give them a better chance of catching Karadzic, wanted by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal for geno-cide and other charges related to the 31/2-year Bosnian conflict.

Nicholas Burns, Christopher's spokesman, said NATO peacekeepers were expanding their patrols to Pale, the mountain site outside Sarajevo where Karadzic maintains his headquarters.

Burns said U.S. Gen. George Joulwan had informed him of the expanded patrols.

But Haselock said Tuesday he was unaware of any increase in the NATO presence in Pale, adding that Italian troops already regularly patrol the town and that the NATO forces have a permanent liaison team of four people based there.

Haselock said the troops would have a more visible presence throughout Bosnia but that no changes in how they conducted their mission had been ordered.

"We're not going to mount a specific operation" to go after Karad-zic, Haselock said.

"What they're talking about is nothing new," he said, adding that the main task of of the 50,000 or so NATO forces, including about 16,000 U.S. troops, was to clear and repair roads and bridges and remove illegal checkpoints set up by police.

Meanwhile, French troops rescued an American patrol Tuesday from a Bosnian Serb crowd angered by the arrest of a Serb man, officials said.

Six U.S. soldiers in two Humvee vehicles arrested the man for carrying a revolver Tuesday morning in the Serb-held Kula suburb and handed him over to a nearby Serb-run police station, said Maj. Guy Vinet, a spokesman for French troops in the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia.

About 200 Serbs immediately surrounded the station and refused to let the Americans leave, Vinet said. A call for reinforcements brought 40 French soldiers in three armored vehicles who used "a little force" to clear the road, allowing the Americans to return to base safely, Vinet said.

He did not elaborate on what actions the French soldiers took.