Road Out of Sarajevo Reopens; Izetbegovic Vows to Block Breakup of Bosnia
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Passing jeering Serbs and a landscape of gutted buildings, the first U.N. convoy to use the road west from Sarajevo in three years left the capital Tuesday on a test run through Serb territory.
U.N. officials hailed the departure as a major step in ending the 3 1/2-year-old siege of Sarajevo, but few civilians are likely to leave for fear of Serb gunners who line the route.
As the U.N. convoy passed the Serb suburb of Ilidza, civilians shouted abuse at peacekeepers and journalists. ``You all should be slaughtered,″ snapped one woman walking with her son.
A cease-fire has been in effect for nearly two weeks, and peace talks are to start Oct. 31 in Dayton, Ohio. But all sides are declaring conflicting bargaining positions, including a Serb demand for the right to secede.
The Serbs _ who went to war in April 1992 after Croats and Muslims voted for independence from Yugoslavia _ want to unite with Serbia and have forced thousands of non-Serbs off their territory.
President Alija Izetbegovic, addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York, vowed Tuesday not to accept ``the division and disintegration of our country, no matter in what packaging it may be served.″
The road west out of Sarajevo was supposed to open when the cease-fire took effect Oct. 12, but it took nearly two weeks for U.N. peacekeepers to clear away hundreds of land mines.
As the U.N. convoy passed the suburb of Stup, yellow tape and red signs warning ``MINES″ lined the road. Bullets and shrapnel pocked every building not gutted by fire.
Both U.N. relief and military officials said they didn’t know what the convoy’s final destination would be.
U.N. officials want to reopen the road for civilian use by Thursday, but aid drivers say they still will use the more treacherous road over Mt. Igman, southwest of Sarajevo, which is protected by U.N. and government guns.
``I would never use this road as long as the Serbs are there,″ said aid worker Selma Kasumagic.
Col. Vladimir Radojcic, commander of Bosnian Serb troops in Ilidza, said civilians won’t be allowed to use the route until roads connecting Serb-held areas in and around Sarajevo are reopened.
Senior U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, who will mediate the peace talks next week, has lined up broad agreement for a single Bosnian state divided into roughly equal Serb and Muslim-Croat sections.
The peace plan would include stationing 50,000 to 60,000 foreign troops in Bosnia to police a settlement. They could include soldiers from NATO, Russia and Islamic countries.
Germany offered 4,000 soldiers Tuesday. Chancellor Helmut Kohl has said Germany would send supply and medical units because the history of Nazi atrocities in Yugoslavia makes it impossible to send combat troops.
In a sign of strains in the Muslim-Croat alliance, Bosnia’s government has said it wants troops from Croatia _ who played a key role in capturing Serb territory _ out of the country within 30 days of a final settlement.
In addition, the government is angry that some Bosnian Croats are running for seats in Croatia’s parliament, indicating they want closer ties between Croatia and their territory in Bosnia.
But in a positive sign, Vice President Ejup Ganic said Tuesday that Bosnian Croats are ready to disband their unofficial government and transfer authority to the Croat-Muslim federation by early next year.
The Croats didn’t confirm his announcement, made at the end of a two-day, U.S.-mediated meeting in Madrid.
In Belgrade, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, meeting with U.S. envoy John Shattuck, demanded assurances the West would pressure Croatia to end human rights violations of Serbs.
Milosevic demanded an end to the ``genocidal behavior of the Croat authorities″ in Serb areas recaptured in August, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported.
Croatian soldiers have been accused by governments and human rights groups of killings, rapes and other atrocites in the recaptured territories.