SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Hostilities increased around Sarajevo today after Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-led government signed a U.N.-brokered agreement to end sniping.
The agreement signed Sunday took effect at noon today, and U.N. officials said both sides appeared to be observing it during the first few hours. The agreement prohibits sniping attacks on civilians, soldiers and U.N. personnel in the Sarajevo area and is to be enforced with the help of U.N. soldiers.
Two people in the capital, which is controlled by Bosnia’s Muslim-led government, have been killed by snipers and at least 20 wounded in the past three weeks.
Increased sniper activity was one indicator of the fraying cease-fire that had kept Sarajevo mostly quiet since February. U.N. officials today reported 742 violations of the cease-fire in a 24-hour period over the weekend.
″It is one of the highest numbers reported lately,″ spokesman Col. Bertrand Labarsouque said.
The spokesman for U.N. peacekeepers, Maj. Rob Annink, said the violations included sniping by both sides around the Holiday Inn, home to many of the foreign diplomats and journalists in the city. He said U.N. anti-sniper teams returned fire.
Other violations were reported south of Sarajevo near Mount Igman, a strategic peak overlooking the city where U.N. officials also spotted movement of Bosnian army units, Labarsouque said.
U.N. officials met representatives of the Bosnian government army to work out the details of implementing the sniping agreement. A similar meeting was planned with Serb military leaders.
The two sides also promised to stop shooting at U.N. planes. Recent attacks forced suspensions of the humanitarian airlift to the capital.
Countless other agreements between the warring sides have failed.
″Out of all previous agreements, maybe we expect the most from this one,″ Hasan Muratovic, a Bosnian government minister who signed the agreement, told state radio.
The government military commander for the Sarajevo region, Gen. Vahid Karavelic, issued an order over radio and television to all Bosnian army units in the capital ″not to return fire even on provocations, but only in the case of direct infantry attack on our positions.″
Meanwhile, both sides were believed to be consolidating forces along battle fronts just north of Sarajevo where government troops made substantial gains the last 10 days.
Peacekeepers have not been allowed to inspect some Bosnian Serb positions in that area, where heavy weapons were spotted recently. The NATO-backed cease-fire forbids the rival parties to have heavy weapons within 12 miles of the city.
Several times over the past week, Serbs tried to take weapons out of U.N. depots in the exclusion zone, claiming to need them to ward off government attacks.
Seizure of weapons from a U.N.-guarded site Aug. 5 prompted a NATO air strike on Bosnian Serbs.
The Bosnian war began in April 1992 when Serbs rebelled against a vote by the republic’s majority Muslims and Croats to secede from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.
The Clinton administration has said it will press to lift the U.N. arms embargo on Bosnia’s government if Serbs do not accept an international peace plan by Oct. 15.
The plan has been repeatedly rejected by the Serbs. It would give the Serbs 49 percent of Bosnia, down from the 70 percent they control now.