Trucks Roll into Sarajevo in Partial Reopening of Route
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Trucks loaded with building materials and firewood rolled across a long-closed route into Sarajevo on Wednesday. But Bosnian Serbs severely restricted use of the road, keeping most Sarajevans just as trapped as they have been through 34 months of war.
U.N. officials viewed the opening of the route into the capital _ and the evacuation of sick and wounded people from the eastern enclave of Gorazde on Tuesday _ as evidence a month-old truce had jelled.
``The fact that it is open to anyone is a success,″ Enrique Aguillar, the chief U.N. civil affairs officer, said of the airport route.
The road, shut down by Serb gunfire in July, allows Sarajevo to be connected to other government-held territory outside the region and to the Croatian coast. Its reopening was a provision of the truce.
U.N. officials tested the route by sending two trucks of construction materials and three truckloads of firewood along it. The wood was enough to heat 2,000 Sarajevo apartments for a night, said Thomas Birath, an official for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Firewood has sat stockpiled for months on the suburban side of Sarajevo airport, blocked by the Serbs from getting in. The U.N. wants to bring in up to five truckloads a day along the route.
The road generated frequent disputes between the Muslim-led government and the Bosnian Serbs as they negotiated the terms of a four-month truce.
In the end, the government could not win Serb approval for five Bosnian charities or civilians to use it. Only eight international charities working under the U.N. umbrella may use the route, and they have alternate routes into the city.
A long-awaited evacuation from Gorazde, which was completed early Wednesday, strengthened U.N. claims of success. Dozens of Serbs who have been living in Gorazde through the Serb siege also left for Serb-held territory.
But there was negative news on another evacuation effort. 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, said his effort was ending.
Denmark, the last country still accepting patients, had informed the International Organization for Migration that it could not accept any more patients because of lack of space. More than 20 people remained stranded in Sarajevo.
More fighting was reported Wednesday in northwest Bosnia, where government troops battle an alliance of Bosnian Serbs, allied Serbs from nearby Croatia and renegade Bosnian Muslims for control of the so-called Bihac pocket.
The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA quoted military sources saying government forces attacked them. There was no word on casualties.
In another development, Bosnia’s Muslim president, vice president and the Muslim-led army command denied allegations by other top officials that growing Islamic influence was menacing the military.
A statement by President Alija Izetbegovic, Vice President Ejup Ganic and the army called the criticism ``baseless″ and insulting, and insisted the army’s goal remained a unified, free and democratic country.
The split in the leadership could make it more difficult for the Bosnian government to speak with one voice in any peace negotiations. International efforts to lure the warring sides back into peace talks broke down last week over Serb intransigence. U.N. officials have focused since on at least anchoring a truce.