BosNet REPORT - "Bitter Pill"; Benneton In Sarajevo

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory

From: Nermin Zukic <>

B o s N e t - Sept. 12, 1995
September 11, 1995


CONSTITUTIONAL AGREEMENT? Foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia, and Yugoslavia Friday agreed to a framework on the legal principles of how to divide Bosnia roughly in half within its existing borders. Top U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke, who led the talks, cautioned that while the agreement is an important step, "the hardest work still lies ahead." That includes coming up with a map of territorial division. Under the plan signed in Geneva, Bosnia-Hercegovina would be formally preserved as a single nation within its current, internationally recognized borders. However, the nation would then be split internally into two parts: 51% for the Bosnian-Croatian federation and 49% to the "Republika Srpska," the Serbs' self-proclaimed ethnically pure republic within Bosnia. Serb extremists exulted that the agreement gives legitimacy to their republic. "Republika Srpska Is Internationally Recognized," blared a banner headline in the Belgrade daily Politika.

`SRPSKA' A `BITTER PILL.' "It is a concession to the Serbs, but it leads toward peace," said Sven Alkalaj, Bosnia's amabassador to the U.S. "Srpska" has been carved out of once-ethnically-mixed Bosnian land through what UN and human-rights investigators call genocide and crimes against humanity. Bosnian President Izetbegovic said recognition of a Serb republic within Bosnia was a "bitter pill," but agreed to anyway -- so as not to anger the U.S. and jeopardize continuation of NATO air strikes. He pointed out that citizens of the "Srpska Republic" would still carry Bosnian passports, and Bosnia would remain a single nation with two parts. "Bosnia is exhausted, Bosnia is burned,'' said Ehdem Bicakcic, a member of the country's collective presidency. ``At this moment, nothing more could have been achieved.'' Some in Sarajevo welcomed any chance to stop the nation's suffering and slaughter. Others, though, were angered that all their suffering in the struggle for a multi-ethnic nation may have been for nothing. "If there was going to be a division what did we fight for?" Edin, 21, a soldier in the Bosnian Army, told Reuters. "Why are all my friends dead in this war?" The multi-ethnic Bosnia Sarajevans fought for, CNN reports, "was erased from the map in Geneva." But the opposition Liberal Party, noting the agreement is "not the best solution," said in a statement that "an endless continuation of the war is not better. ... Like in other wars, peace wins justice in the end."

OTHER DETAILS. The Geneva agreement also says that each part of Bosnia has the right to enter into "special relationships" with its neighbors -- effectively authorizing Srpska to formalize links with neighboring Serbia. However, the agreement claims such links must be "consistent with the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Bosnia-Hercegovina. The plan also says that refugees driven from their homes have the right to return to those homes or receive "just compensation" for their property losses.

NO TALKS YET ON TERRITORY. Negotiators have yet to agree on a map to split Bosnia into its two components. Among the most difficult issues: Serbs want to divide Sarajevo, keeping a piece as an ethnically-pure Serbian center for their "capital;" the Bosnian government demands Sarajevo be restored as an undivided, multi-ethnic city. The New York Times reports that Serb nationalists may consider setting up their capital in Banja Luka, site of some of the war's worst ethnic cleansing. Thousands of Muslims and Croats are still being expelled from Banja Luka while negotiations continue in Geneva. Another sticking point is the eastern enclave of Gorazde, which Serbs want ethnically cleansed in order to make their territory contiguous. The Bosnian government vigorously opposes giving up the enclave.

WOULD BOSNIAN SERB NATIONALISTS GO ALONG? Noting that NATO has yet been unable to force Serb guns to move even a few miles outside of Sarajevo, CBS-TV correspondent Bob Simon wondered aloud how any agreement in Geneva could force Serb military leaders on the ground to give back any territory they have siezed. The Yugoslav delegation is currently negotiating on behalf of Bosnian Serb nationalists, whose leaders are under international indictment for war crimes and genocide. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is "furious" that Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic has taken such a hard line with NATO, the Financial Times (U.K.) reports. Milosevic endorsed a Bosnian peace plan last year, but Serbs in Bosnia rejected it anyway.

WHAT OF WAR CRIMINALS? CBS also noted there was no mention of amnesty for war crimes in the agreement. Famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal recently urged President Clinton to publicly condemn Mladic and Bosnian Serb nationalist political leader Radovan Karadzic. While not mentioning the two by name, Clinton responded that he strongly supports the international war-crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia, and added that the U.S. "has never been slow to condemn the conduct of the Bosnian Serb army and its leadership." An estimated 95% of non-Serbs have been murdered, tortured, imprisoned, or expelled from territory occupied by Serb nationalists. Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to documenting Nazi war crimes during World War II, said he was pleased by Clinton's response.

SERB REACTION. Following news of the Geneva agreement, Serb militiamen ringing Sarajevo fired mortars at the city's crowded main boulevard. Several people were wounded. Serb officials claim pulling back their guns would leave them open to Bosnian government attack, and say they prefer to take their chances with NATO bombing raids -- which they expect to end in a few weeks.

AIR STRIKES CONTINUE. NATO has continued air strikes against Serb nationalist targets in Bosnia while Serbs refuse to pull back their weapons from Sarajevo and reopen the city's airport. "Those objectives remain. They are non-negotiable," says U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, NATO's southern commander. Serb nationalist leaders claimed they withdrew most of their heavy weapons from around Sarajevo; but UN officials dismissed the statement, noting that Serb weapons were seen moving around inside the "excusion zone" but not pulled out. "As far as we are concerned the Serbs have still failed to remove one heavy weapon from the exclusion zone,'' said UN spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Vernon. On Sunday, the USS Normandy fired 13 potent Tomahawk cruise missiles at Serb air-defense systems around Banja Luka. The 700-lb. missiles, with a range of 800 miles, are not affected by cloud cover. NATO has been bombing bridges and roadways in several areas of the country, trying to prevent troops besieging Sarajevo from being resupplied. Military barracks, ammunition depots, and communications centers are also under attack. "One UN source in Sarajevo, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the attacks had destroyed most of the Serbs' ammunition stocks around the capital, and severely limited their ability to attack," Associated Press reported Friday. However, Serbs have repaired some air defenses or switched to backup systems, prompting the new attacks. Some press reports say the damage to Serb military capabilities was not as great as being claimed. Mladic reportedly met with UN Comander Gen. Janvier Sunday. Details were not made public, but CNN reports that Mladic again refused to pull back all heavy weapons from around Sarajevo. Bosnian President Izetbegovic, "under apparent Western pressure," offered guarantees that the Bosnian Army will not launch an offensive around Sarajevo if Serb weapons are withdrawn, AP reports.

FIRST DAMAGE TO PALE. After Serb forces killed 10,500 Sarajevans by repeatedly firing at civilian targets throughout the war, Serb nationalists are now irate about damage to civilian sites in Pale, according to CBS-TV's Bob Simon. "Bosnian Serb authorities led reporters from their `capital' Pale to see what they called extensive damage to civilian targets," Reuters reported Thursday. "What they displayed paled in comparison to the chaos their army has inflicted on Sarajevo in the past 40 months." Pale, just a few miles from Sarajevo, had been spared any damage in the war until now because the Bosnian Army has no long-range artillery to counter Serb heavy weapons -- which until last week had relentlessly pounded Sarajevo's civilians with impunity. NATO acknowledged that some damage to Serb civilian targets is likely, although officials maintain great care is being taken to minimize so-called "collateral damage." Bombing raids are restricted in cloudy weather because laser-guided bombs do not fuction well through clouds.

CASUALTIES? On Friday, Serb nationalists claimed a hospital in Ilidza was hit by UN artillery, killing 10 people. However, Serb officials have so far blocked access to UN investigators seeking to verify the charges and examine any craters and shell fragments. The UN says a stray artillery round may have killed Serb civilians, but it cannot accept responsibility without being able to investigate. UN officials say the Rapid Reaction Force fired at a missile site which had been placed just a few hundred yards from the hospital. Reporters were escorted to the scene a day later, where CNN broadcast pictures of wounded patients in the hospital, and video from a funeral service for one victim. Journalists were "not shown any dead and did not see the morgue," according to Reuters. "There was evidence of casualties in the area including pools of blood but no obvious damage to the hospital." "Western journalists in Pale said it appeared shells may have struck outside the hospital, shattering its windows," the Washington Post reports. One victim reportedly was entering the hospital when he was hit.

NATO `RESTRAINT.' NATO and UN officials say they are NOT individually targeting the 300 or so heavy weapons ringing the city, preferring to give Serb nationalists the opportunity to move them. "If we get the order, we can take out every Serbian tank and artillery piece threatening Sarajevo," NY Times columnist William Safire says a high- ranking U.S. defense official told him. However, NATO does not want to destroy Serb military capabilities -- believing this would encourage the Bosnian government to fight on and try to liberate Sarajevo themselves.

ANGER IN RUSSIA. Russian leaders are furious about the continuing bombing attacks on Serbs, saying the raids have gone far beyond anything Moscow agreed to. The Russian parliament called for Russia to break sanctions against Yugoslavia and openly send weapons to the Serbs, and demanded the resignation of Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev. Russian officials also threatened to reconsider future cooperation with NATO. Western officials, however, say they are enforcing a UN mandate which set out a heavy-weapons exclusion zone around Sarajevo, and say the attacks will continue until Serbs comply. A CBS News poll showed 59% of the American public supports the NATO raids.

AIR STRIKES A RELIEF TO SOME. While some Sarajevans are skeptical the bombing raids can bring peace, many are nevertheless relieved the world finally took some action against their tormentors. "Imagine being beaten up every day for three years and then someone comes along and beats the man who's been beating you," Saim Salijevic, 24, told Reuters. "We all feel safer now that NATO is bombing the Chetniks (Serb nationalists)." More than 10,500 Sarajevans, mostly civilians, have been killed by Serb forces. "The Serbs tended their gardens in Lukavica for three years with nothing to worry about while their soldiers shelled Sarajevo," another Sarajevan said. "Now the shoe is on the other foot." Lukavica, a Serb-occupied suburb of Sarajevo, is the site of a major military barracks. Asim, 40, told AP he hopes the bombing raids may let him walk around his neighborhod without fear of getting shot. Serb snipers have deliberately gunned down unarmed Sarajevo civilians throughout the 40-month siege. "I do feel sorry for the Serb civilians on the other side," Asim added, "but their army must be destroyed. The civilians are not to blame. This war is the fault of their crazy leaders."

TUZLA SHELLED. Serb forces bombed the UN-held airport in the "safe haven" of Tuzla for about 25 minutes Sunday. NATO warplanes were then called in to attack Serb targets around Tuzla; artillery and a command bunker were reportedly hit. Earlier in the day, the Bosnian Army reportedly advanced toward nearby Serb-held Mount Ozren. Serb forces often respond to attacks on their soldiers by shelling Bosnian civilian centers, AP notes.

CROAT LEADER CHARGED. Ivica Rajic, commander of the Croatian Defense Council in central Bosnia, has been charged with war crimes by the UN tribunal based in the Hague. Rajic is accused of ordering an attack in which 16 Muslims were murdered and the village of Stupni Do destroyed.

BOSNIA'S ELDERLY HARD HIT. A study of Bosnian civilians in the besieged cities of Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Zenica found one in seven people over the age of 60 to be malnourished, according to the British Medical Journal. The study took place from December 1993 to May 1994. Bosnians have since suffered another 16 months of siege, during which Serb nationalists have blocked most food and medical aid to civilians.

BENNETTON TO OPEN IN SARAJEVO. The Italian fashion chain Bennetton is set to open in besieged Sarajevo, in a storefront piled high with sandbags. "Two weeks ago distraught Bosnian Army soldiers were scooping human brains and severed limbs from the gutter less than 100 meters down the street after a mortar bomb landed and killed 37 persons, wounding 85 others," Reuters notes. T-shirts will sell for 25 German marks (about $18) -- twice the monthly salary of a surgeon in the besieged city. But "people here say anything that offers a taste of normality cannot be condemned," according to Reuters. "Benetton is a reminder of pre-war days when modish Sarajevans took the train to Italy to shop for clothes. "That the clothes in Benetton's new store got to Sarajevo at all was a miracle, given that the only route in until a week ago was a makeshift tunnel under the airport. But now the UN has opened one road into the city for commercial traffic." Almost all stores still open in the city sell only goods from before the war, used items people have sold for money to buy food, or low-quality goods smuggled in and re-sold at black-market rates.


-The Bosnia Action Coalition (Mass./NH)

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