Route into Sarajevo Partially Reopened
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The first trucks trundling along the newly reopened route into the Bosnian capital carried construction materials and enough firewood to heat 2,000 apartments _ for one night.
U.N. officials hailed the reopening Wednesday, a step made possible by the cease-fire signed on Dec. 31 which they hope can be the basis for a lasting peace.
``The fact that it is open to anyone is a success,″ Enrique Aguillar, the chief U.N. civil affairs officer, said of the route, which runs through the airport and allows Sarajevo to be connected to other government-held territory outside the region and to the Croatian coast.
The road, a target of Serb gunfire, had been closed since July. Now eight international charities working under the U.N. umbrella _ which already have land access into Sarajevo _ may use the route.
But Bosnian Serbs are refusing to let civilians or Bosnian charities to use it, so the additional route into the capital seemed unlikely to ease Sarajevo’s isolation or significantly ease the privations of war.
The gloomy outlook was underlined Wednesday by an announcement by Dr. Fausto Mariani, head of a program that has moved hundreds of sick and injured from Sarajevo during the past two years for treatment abroad, that his program was ending.
Denmark, the last country still accepting patients, told the International Organization for Migration that it did not have space for any more patients. More than 20 people in need of medical evacuation remained stranded in Sarajevo.
Lt. Gen. Rupert Smith, the new commander of U.N. forces in Bosnia, was heading to the northwestern Bihac region today to visit Bangladeshi peacekeepers there.
Fighting in the Bihac region has not abated since a four-month truce went into effect at the beginning of the year.
Bosnian government troops there are battling an alliance of Bosnian Serbs, allied Serbs from nearby Croatia and renegade Muslims.
U.N. officials said government commanders had showed them a nearly 20 square-mile area they had recaptured over the past 10 days.
Bosnian radio reported Wednesday that President Alija Izetbegovic, in a letter to the chief U.N. envoy for former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, reiterated demands that Serb attacks in the Bihac area be halted, or continued fighting in the region could ignite new battles elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Izetbegovic and the army command denied accusations by five Bosnian political leaders of growing Islamic influence in the military.
A statement by Izetbegovic, Vice President Ejup Ganic and the army called the criticism ``baseless″ and insulting, and insisted the army’s goal remained a unified country that was free and democratic.