* Frontlines, Bosnia and Herzegovina * UN And NATO Declares End To Air Strikes * Refugees Update * NATO Draws Up Plans For Bosnia * Bosnians Seek Surrender Of Banja Luka * US envoys praise Bosnian troops in Bihac * The Text Of A Statement On Suspending Air Raids:
A UN spokesman in Zagreb, Alexander Ivanko, says the Croatian government's pledge that its forces would be withdrawn from Bosnia and Herzegovina is, apparently, being honored. He said that the "UN has reports that offensive operations in Western Bosnia have virtually ceased. Croatian units have been seen withdrawing across the international border into Croatia." It seem that in last two days nationalist Bosnian Serbs have been counter-attacking to keep the Federation forces away from Sanski Most and Prijedor that lie on main roads leading to Banja Luka. Ivanko said that "there are indications that the situation about Banja Luka has also stabilized." He welcomed this news that allows aid organizations space to deal with the thousands of refugees in and around Banja Luka." Despite the positive signs, peace remains tremulous. Early Wednesday, nationalist Bosnian Serbs fired two missiles on a NATO plane near Sarajevo. The missiles were fired from the Sarajevo suburb of Vogosca but did not hit their target. The UN says the Bosnian army has again fired mortar rounds into a Serb-held area around Sarajevo. The shelling violated Government promises not to attack Serb positions and UN spokesman Ivanko condemns it. UN officials say the siege of Sarajevo is not lifted. Restoring utilities to Sarajevo is major priority and gas supplies should be switched on a week after the nationalist Bosnian Serbs agreed to the plan. Bosnia's government commissioner for contacts with UNPROFOR, Mr. Hasan Muratovic, stated last night that the nationalist Bosnian Serbs had only withdrawn 250 of the 380 tanks, heavy artillery and mortar cannons from around Sarajevo. UN said that the Bosnian army has been shelling Serb positions in Doboj, but UN officials do not believe Doboj is in danger of falling to Government forces.
UN and NATO commanders issued a joint statement late Wednesday announcing a suspension of air strikes against the nationalist Bosnian Serbs. The statement came after allied officials determined that the nationalist Serbs completed the withdrawal of 235 heavy weapons from the 20-kilometer exclusion zone, and UN inspection teams found 16 other guns that had been made inoperable or destroyed by air attacks, or artillery fire. Admiral Smith and General Janvier emphasized that any subsequent attack on Sarajevo or any other safe areas, or other non-compliance would be subject to investigation and resumption of air strikes.
US president Clinton said that the "UN and NATO commanders are in agreement that the Serbs have completed the required withdrawal of heavy weapons from the exclusion zone... I welcome this development. The NATO air campaign in Bosnia was successful." He added that renewed attacks on Sarajevo or the other safe areas "or any Serb non-compliance with their commitments, will trigger a resumption of NATO air strikes."
In Central Bosnia, the nationalist Bosnian Serbs are expelling Muslim residents of the town of Doboj. In Davor, Croatia, 944 refugees from Banja Luka crossed into Croatia Wednesday. The office for refugees and displaced persons has secured housing for 465 people in the Una Bihac Canton, and 145 will stay with friends or relatives. Some 400 refugees are still at the collection center in Davor. Yesterday's wave of refugees numbered 938 Muslims and 56 Croats. Since the 14th of August Croatia has absorbed over 20 thousand refugees.
NATO military chiefs have begun to draw up plans for policing the peace in Bosnia. The operation would be the most ambitious ever undertaken by the Western alliance, and could involve up to 70-thousand troops. Planning is still in its early stages, but the NATO operation would be likely to involve setting up a buffer force along the border between the two parts of what will become the "Federal State of Bosnia." The NATO body, which would be known as an "Implementation Force," would be commanded by US Admiral Leighton Smith, who currently heads NATO operations in the region. The American Defense Secretary William Perry, speaking Thursday at a news conference in Budapest, says that the US has not yet decided how many troops to contribute. He added that the US "will participate in a leadership role. That is: Our contribution of forces will not be token... I believe that this force will be a sizeable force -- the NATO force." NATO officials say the force could also include troops from non-alliance countries, possibly Russia.
The Croatian state news agency Hina quoted a Sarajevo government letter to the U.N. Security Council, forwarded by Bosnian UN Ambassador Ivica Misic. It proposed the "demilitarization of Banja Luka and promised that if this was brokered the Bosnian forces would refrain from further actions against this town," Hina said. "As part of the provisions of this agreement, our government is requesting the demilitarisation of Banja Luka... In line with this the personal security and rights of all of Banja Luka's residents would be respected and our government would refrain from any further actions against this town," the agency quoted Misic as saying.
The US ambassadors to Croatia and Bosnia, Peter Galbraith, endorsing some aspects of a Federation offensive in Western Bosnia, praised Bosnian troops Wednesday for reuniting a divided town of Bihac. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith and ambassador-designate to Bosnia John Menzies climbed over a broken bridge on the River Una, symbolically reuniting two halves of Bosanska Krupa, a town divided for the past three and a half years. "This represents a connection between two parts of Bosnia which did not exist before," Galbraith said. "We commend 5th Corps for the liberation, and the heroism they've displayed over the years," Menzies said in Bihac, headquarters of 5th Corps, which was surrounded and outgunned by Serb forces until six weeks ago.
Admiral Smith and General Janvier have concluded that the Bosnian Serbs have complied with the conditions set out in General Janvier's letter of 3 September 1995. Specifically, they have withdrawn defined heavy weapons from the Sarajevo Exclusion Zone. This withdrawal has been supervised by the removal of the weapons and the destruction of those that remain. The airport has been opened. U.N. and humanitarian traffic has unimpeded access of the main routes into Sarajevo. As confidence grows, access should include civilian traffic. Admiral Smith and General Janvier have threrfore agreed that the resumption of air strikes is currently not necessary. The Bosnian Serbs have expressed their willingness to discuss a cessation of hostilities agreement at any time. The U.N. and NATO continue to urge all parties to join the Bosnian Serbs and finalize a cessation of hostilities agreement for the Sarajevo area with Chief of Mission and Commander of the U.N. Protection Force (UNPROFOR) with a view to extending it to a complete and countrywide cessation of hostilities at the earliest opportunity. Notwithstanding the above decision, at this point, Admiral Smith and General Janvier emphasize that any subsequent attack on Sarajevo or any other safe area, or other non-compiance to the Exclusion Zone, freedom of movement or the functioning of the airport would be subject to investigation and resumption of air strikes.