NATO, UN Poised for Next Steps

Airstrikes still option; tactics considered for other enclaves

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

IN a voice redolent of regret, Gen. Stanislav Galic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb hold on Sarajevo, considered how things stood.

``If the United Nations and other sides had not meddled, I would have sorted out Sarajevo,'' the hard-faced officer mused as Western jets soared above his headquarters in the western suburb of Lukavica.

``The Turks have only to thank those people that they are still here. Sarajevo could have been mine,'' he said, using a racial slur for Muslims derived from the Ottoman invaders who carried Islam to the Balkans 500 years ago.

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Outside General Galic's office, grizzled troops atop tanks and armored cars prepared for a fogged-in crawl over icy mountain roads away from Sarajevo.

For now, the Bosnian Serbs have been checked in pursuing their aim of splitting Sarajevo, corraling the city's majority Muslims in a downtown ghetto, and making the rest of the city the capital of the self-declared state they have carved out of 70 percent of Bosnia.

Facing attack by history's mightiest air power, they caved in to NATO's demand that they withdraw their heavy guns beyond a 13-mile zone or place them under UN control by 1 a.m. yesterday.

Western officials, however, stress that airstrikes still could be launched if verification shows the Bosnian Serbs are not in full compliance with NATO's demand in the next few days. (An Eastern European view, Page 7.)

UN military observers fanned out yesterday to pinpoint the small number of weapons that remained in place because of the harsh weather.

Meanwhile, some 400 Russian troops took up positions in the downtown Bosnian Serb-held area as part of a UN force policing the 10-day-old truce, the most successful of the war.

It was last Thursday's decision by Russia - historically a Serb ally, and an opponent of NATO airstrikes - to contribute to the UN force that gave Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic a face-saving way to comply with the NATO ultimatum.

The main question now is what next?

Sarajevo's 380,000 people remain surrounded. The siege lines that slice out of the mountains, into the city's shell-torn heart and then out again, are now secured by UN troops. The Bosnian Serbs continue to control all access routes. Food and medicines are still delivered by convoys and aircraft. Sarajevo's electricity, water, and gas are still regulated by the Serbs.

Meanwhile, the war that has claimed some 200,000 lives continues in other parts of Bosnia.

The United States, its Western allies, and Russia say they intend to deal in a similar way with other areas, notably the northern pocket of Tuzla, which is periodically shelled by Bosnian Serb forces refusing to allow its airport to be opened to humanitarian aid.

Many here fear that in halting the shelling of Sarajevo, the international community has inadvertently laid the ground for escalations in fighting elsewhere.

They cite UN military monitor reports that the best weapons withdrawn by the Bosnian Serbs are being deployed elsewhere for what many fear may be spring offensives.

UN officials are also concerned about troop buildups in central Bosnia by Bosnian Croat forces augmented by thousands of regular troops from neighboring Croatia.

Moving ahead just in Sarajevo will be slow and difficult, with the UN Protection Force lacking the several thousand troops it needs for the operation.

Aside from the still-tense military situation, the seemingly intractable political disputes that have fueled the fighting persist. Mr. Karadzic said he could accept a plan for a two-year UN administration of Sarajevo. But he remains resolute about its eventual partition.

``We are ready ... to have two viable cities, and that is how it is going to be,'' he insists.

BOSNIAN Serb leaders expect the Bosnian government to surrender ``Serbian'' areas of the city it controls. And they will retain a grip over their rivals, even after a peace deal, by maintaining control of all surrounding ``Serbian land'' across which pass utility, traffic, and communications links.

``I feel as if my death sentence has been commuted to life in prison,'' says Gordona Knezevic, the editor of the Sarajevo daily, Oslobodjene.

Galic rules out any territorial links between Sarajevo and other areas to be included in the Muslim ``ministate'' outlined under the plan for an ethnic division of Bosnia.

``Maybe'' there could be a UN-supervised ``corridor'' linking the ``Muslim side'' of Sarajevo with Bosnian government-held towns in central Bosnia, but nowhere else, Galic says.

Finally, he dismisses the idea of Serb compliance if NATO and the UN extend the airstrike threat to end sieges of other Muslim-dominated enclaves.

``It can't be a model for other areas,'' he warned.

``It is a step toward peace in Sarajevo, but we can't be expected to allow the disarmament and disbanding of our army elsewhere,'' he added.

This is no surprise to the Muslim-led Bosnian government, which is angry over what it sees as an international effort to force it to accept an ethnic carve-up of Bosnia without the territorial concessions required to ensure a viable state.

It accused UN officials of deliberately sabotaging NATO's airstrike threat by deploying cease-fire-monitoring troops in vulnerable positions around Sarajevo and allowing the Bosnian Serbs to gather weapons in heavily populated areas.

This, Bosnian officials claimed, is creating de facto ``green lines'' that accomplish in peace for Karadzic the partition of the capital that he failed to win in war.

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