Serbs Make New Promises As Cease-fire Talks Founder With PM-Bosnia-Green Sarajevo
GENEVA (AP) _ Bosnian Serbs began a delayed withdrawal from a Muslim enclave in eastern Bosnia, but it was unlikely the last armed Serb would be out in time to start cease-fire talks today, a U.N. spokesman said.
″There has been some withdrawal of armed Serb elements and it’s a significant withdrawal,″ but about 50 remained in the 1.9-mile exclusion zone around Gorazde this morning, U.N. spokesman Michael Williams said.
About 150 to 200 armed Serb soldiers were still in Gorazde on Thursday posing as policemen or civilians. The United Nations announced that the talks would be postponed until they left.
Planned for two days, the talks were to be a preamble to weekend meetings on a political settlement of the 2-year-old war.
Williams said U.N. officials continued to try to get Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb officials together and still had hopes of starting the cease-fire talks later today, but said it was more likely they would start early Saturday.
U.N. envoy Yasushi Akashi met with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in Geneva this morning and demanded the Serbs withdraw. Williams said Karadzic told Akashi it would ″be sorted out within a few hours.″
In Sarajevo, U.N. spokesman Maj. Dacre Holloway, said the armed Serbs who remained in Gorazde were dressed as civilians. ″They were military before, then policemen, now they’re civilians,″ he said.
″Our men went around and conducted a census last night,″ Holloway said. ″They came across approximately 50 men in the same positions they were in before, wearing civilian clothes and wearing sidearms. That’s not to say there aren’t more hiding out.″
Bosnia’s Muslim-led government has said it will not attend cease-fire talks until Serbs make good on their promise more than a month ago to get their men out of the 1.9-mile zone around the town, under threat of NATO attack.
Muslim-held Goradze is important to the Serbs because it straddles lands they control in eastern and southern Bosnia.
U.N. military commanders in former Yugoslavia, as well as U.N. mediator Thorvald Stoltenberg and his European Union counterpart, Lord Owen, had assembled for the Geneva meeting.
Threatened with Western air strikes, Bosnian Serbs agreed to a cease-fire around Sarajevo in February and one around Gorazde in April. But negotiations on an overall peace broke down in February.
More than 200,000 people have been reported killed or missing since Bosnian Serbs rebelled against Muslims and Croats who voted to secede from Serb- dominated Yugoslavia.
The weekend negotiations, aimed at an overall peace settlement, including a division of territory, are sponsored by the United States, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. Their initiatives are separate from those of the United Nations.
The sponsors of the weekend meetings are pushing a settlement that would leave the Serbs, who now control about 70 percent of Bosnia, with 49 percent. The Muslim-Croat federation would share the remaining 51 percent.