Road From Sarajevo Opens _ With Restrictions
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Serbs opened a key road into Sarajevo to international charities today. But the route was kept closed to everyone else in the Bosnian capital, cut off from the outside world since July.
U.N. officials, who have been trying to get the road open under terms of a Dec. 31 truce agreement, portrayed the opening as a sign of progress.
``The fact that it is open to anyone is a success,″ said Enrique Aguillar, the U.N. chief civilian affairs officer. ``We’ll see more humanitarian aid entering the city.″
With other access roads available for U.N. aid transports and the airlift into Sarajevo working without a hitch in recent weeks, the limited opening of the road near the airport appeared at best to be a modest concession by the Serbs.
The Bosnian government had at first pressed for access to all, then for local aid agencies, but was rebuffed on both counts.
The agreement applies only to eight international aid groups. Five big Bosnian charities remain shut out.
With talks on a permanent peace for Bosnia scuttled because of Serb opposition, the United Nations has been under pressure to demonstrate that the cease-fire, at least, is working.
U.N. officials said today that firing incidents in Sarajevo were down 97 percent in the northeast a month into the four-month truce.
Also bolstering U.N. claims of success was a long-awaited evacuation from the eastern enclave of Gorazde, which culminated early today with the arrival of dozens of sick and wounded to Sarajevo. The evacuation was a truce provision.
But persistent fighting in the northwest, where government troops are vying for control of the Bihac pocket against an alliance of Bosnian Serbs, allied Serbs from nearby Croatia and renegade Bosnian Muslims, has poked gaping holes in the cease-fire.
U.N. officials and Bosnian radio reported more fighting in northwest Bosnia on Tuesday. U.N. officials said a government push north toward Velika Kladusa, a strategic town near the Croatia border, had apparently been stopped.
The relative calm elsewhere could be partially due to the winter, which complicates troop and equipment movements. But with Serb opposition grounding plans to restart talks on a long-shelved peace plan, new fighting by spring is likely. And it may be stoked if Serb-Croat hostilities resume in Croatia after the planned departure by March of peacekeepers from there.
Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic of Bosnia has been lobbying the United States for support in apparent anticipation of a surge in fighting. In Washington on Tuesday, he said he was opimistic the Americans would unilaterally exempt his country from an arms embargo on all past and present Yugoslav republics if the Serbs continue rejecting the peace plan.
Bosnia’s Muslim-led government says the embargo has perpetuated the military advantage enjoyed by the heavily armed Bosnian Serbs, who control 70 percent of the republic.
The Clinton administration, although initially opposed to the embargo, has been unwilling to lift it unilaterally, fearing a split with NATO allies. Britain and France argue that lifting it would expand the war and endanger their peacekeeping troops on the ground.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole met with Silajdzic on Monday and assured him of solid congressional support for a bill the Kansas Republican has introduced to lift the embargo.