ANOTHER STEP TOWARD A CONSTITUTION? At that meeting Tuesday, the three foreign ministers announced another agreement on a proposed constitutional framework for Bosnia-Hercegovina. Elections would take place sometime after fighting halted and international observers concluded that necessary conditions for voting were met. As in an earlier agreement, this accord maintains Bosnia-Hercegovina as an internationally recognized nation made up of two parts: a Bosnian-Croat federation, and a Serb republic. Two-thirds of both a parliamentary assembly and collective presidency would be elected from the Muslim-Croat federation and one-third from the Serb Republic. This was a major concession from the Bosnian government, which had sought single, nationwide elections by popular vote -- and not ethnic divisions. A one-third vote of the collective presidency would be enough to block any decision by the body. Analysts say Serbs would thus be able to veto action by the national government -- which some say sets up the same problem that tore Yugoslavia apart in the early 1990s. "If it didn't work in 1991, how on earth is it going to work now given what's happened in the intervening three or four years?" asked Michael Williams, a former UN spokesman now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. The Bosnian government is still seeking assurances that the Serb Republic would be prohibited from seceding and joining with Serbia. Optimists hope the accord is a step toward ending the fighting and suffering in Bosnia. Critics call the plan unworkable and an immoral ratification of "ethnic cleansing." "Every compromise bears the taste of bitterness," Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic wrote last week in the Sarajevo daily Oslobodenje. Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic called the New York accord "a good step forward," and said if the West keeps up pressure on Yugoslavia, peace could come "within weeks." However, Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey said any peace would always be in danger as long as indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic lead the Bosnian Serbs.
ROCKET ATTACK ON TRAVNIK. At least two people were killed and 25 wounded when Serb nationalists launched a rocket attack on the government-held city of Travnik, BBC reported yesterday (Wednesday). The cluster bombs were "designed to inflict widespread casualties and terror," BBC notes, shortly after diplomats were talking "peace" thousands of miles away in New York.
MORTARS COULD BE BACK AROUND SARAJEVO. UN officials admit that mortars withdrawn from the "heavy-weapons exclusion zone" around Sarajevo could already be back. After the Serb weapons pullback, "We have not had any kind of permanent or pervasive presence on the Serbs' side of the line around Sarajevo,'' a UN official told Reuters. UN soldiers on the ground monitored the withdrawal of weapons on a road left open for that purpose. However, after the withdrawal, UN soldiers left those monitoring stations -- fearing that Serb forces would again be tempted to seize the soldiers and hold them hostage. Unlike tanks and artillery, mortars -- essentially large tubes that fire shells in a high trajectory -- can be hidden in car trunks and easily driven back into the zone undetected by aerial reconnaissance. "In 1994, when Serb heavy weapons had been collected at UN sites around Sarajevo, it seemed impossible the city could slide back into the shelling and sniping that had killed 10,000 residents and wounded 50,000, and yet it happened," AP notes. "Bosnia's government says, based on experience, that once the daily drama of the siege of Sarajevo abates, Serbs can count on a relaxation of international vigilance and pressure."
SERBS STILL GUN DOWN SARAJEVANS. While NATO air strikes at least temporarily quieted artillery and mortars around Sarajevo, Serb snipers continue to murder unarmed civilians in the city. Among the latest victims: Hajrudin Jusufovic, 33, who was gunned down while bringing water to his wife and handicapped 9-month-old daughter. Jusufovic, a sound technician at a Sarajevo radio station, was fatally shot just 100 yards from his home and died in his wife's arms, Associated Press reports. "Nothing has changed," neighbor Nenad Jovanovic said bitterly before his friend's funeral. "Snipers are still all around us, killing innocent people when they like." Jovanovic, 49, is an ethnic Serb.
WORDS, BUT NO POWER OR WATER. UN officials claimed last Thursday that Serbs besieging Sarajevo were willing to restore utilities to the city but it would take several weeks to turn on water and electricity. Gas was expected to be restored within a week, they said. But, six days after the statement, there were no reports of natural gas in the city. Bosnian President Izetbegovic demanded the restoration of Sarajevo utilities as one condition of a cease-fire; as well as opening of roads into Kiseljak and Gorazde, and an end to "ethnic cleansing" on Serb-held territory.
HUNGER IN GORAZDE. "Aid workers are reporting extreme food shortages in Gorazde, the sole Muslim enclave left in eastern Bosnia," Associated Press reports. About 57,000 people are encircled and besieged by Serb forces there, following the fall of nearby Srebrenica and Zepa. And, electricity to the enclave has been cut since 1992. Yet as Serbs continue to block aid to the Bosnian enclave -- as they have done throughout the war -- international aid is pouring unhindered to Serb refugees in northern Bosnia. Nevertheless, aid workers said they were stretched to the limit trying to care for the estimated 80,000 refugees in Serb-held Banja Luka, with major concerns about their sanitary conditions.
SERBS STEP UP ETHNIC CLEANSING. Hundreds of non-Serbs were driven from Serb-occupied Doboj Friday -- many after being beaten and robbed. All were forced to walk 14 miles overnight to government-held territory. "They were virtually all Muslims and were rounded up on short notice, some with just five minutes to get ready," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski. "One woman's face was beaten black and blue and another had marks on her wrist from being bound by wire. "We believe pretty much the entire Muslim population of Doboj is gone from the town now." Before the latest round of expulsions, the UN estimated that 95% of non-Serbs had been murdered, imprisoned, or expelled from Serb-occupied Bosnia. There were no reports of Bosnian soldiers conducting widescale beatings and robberies of Serb civilians. The Bosnian government had called for Banja Luka to be demilitarized and to be governed by local Serb civilian, not military leaders; and for negotiations to begin on the return of all refugees -- Serbs, Croats, and Muslims -- to their homes. Serb nationalists rejected the demand.
PARAMILITARY TROOPS FROM SERBIA IN BANJA LUKA. An estimated 1,000 men from a paramilitary unit in Serbia are now in Banja Luka, the largest city under the control of Bosnian Serb nationalists. That Serb unit is headed by Zeljko Raznatovic, known as "Arkan," who is accused of overseeing some of the most brutal war crimes in Bosnia. Despite his connection to widespread murder, torture, rape, and expulsions of Bosnian civilians, Arkan is a folk hero in much of Serbia.
BOSNIANS, CROATS ADVANCE AROUND OZREN, BANJA LUKA. The Bosnian Army gained "a very large amount of ground" around Ozren mountain in central Bosnia last week, according to UN spokesman Chris Gunness. Ozren lies within a "triangle" created by the cities of Tuzla, Maglaj and Doboj. "The new line runs from Rjecice, north of Maglaj, to Bosanska Petrovo in the east," he said. "It's a major advance of the confrontation line.'' In western Bosnia, Croatian troops captured the towns of Bosanska Kostajnica and Bosanska Dubica from Serb forces, according to the Croatian newspaper Slobodna Dalmacia. And, Bosnian forces won control of about 220 square miles near the town of Bosanski Novi. However, Sanski Most, 25 miles west of Banja Luka, appeared to still be under Serb occupation despite early claims that Serb forces had been driven out. "We want to connect three "B's": Bihac, Banja Luka, Bijeljina," said Gen. Dudakovic, commander of the Bosnian Army 5th Corps. Banja Luka and Bijeljina are still under Serb occupation.
SERB COUNTEROFFENSIVE. Following a massive Bosnian-Croat military action to take control of large swaths of western Bosnia, Serb nationalists took back some territory in what the UN called "limited counterattacks." The Croatian government announced that its army was halting support for the Bosnian campaign to recapture territory. The Croatian army pulled back after suffering heavy losses when seven Serb warplanes dropped cluster bombs on Croatian soldiers. NATO is supposedly charged with enforcing a no-fly zone throughout Bosnia. Because of an arms embargo on Bosnia-Hercegovina, the outgunned Bosnian Army often needs to rely on heavy-weapons support from Croatia in the face of Serb nationalists' overwhelming firepower.
PROBLEMS IN THE FEDERATION. During this month's major advance by Bosnian and Croatian troops in western Bosnia, eight soldiers were killed during an hour-long gun battle between the Bosnian and Croatian armies. BBC initially reported the fighting was a signal of tensions between the two armies over territory. However, AP said that the two armies were so poorly coordinated, they engaged in battle because each believed the others were Serb soldiers.
DIFFERENT BEHAVIOR. "In every area where Muslims lived before the war and which is today controlled by [Croat] forces, no mosques remain intact," according to a UN report quoted by the Boston Globe. "On the other hand in the overwhelming majority of the areas under [Bosnian] control the Catholic churches and monasteries still stand." Croatian President Tudjman, meanwhile, told the French publication Le Figaro that "Croatia accepts the task of Europeanization of the Bosnian Muslims, i.e. it should be a guarantee for their incorporation in European civilization, not the tool of fundamentalism in Europe." Serb nationalists used the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism as an excuse to seize Bosnian land. Actually, though, Bosnia's Muslims were among the most secular in the world; in Sarajevo, for example, the intermarriage rate among ethnic groups approached 40 percent. However, the West's abandonment of Bosnia's Muslims to brutal attacks; military and humanitarian aid from the Muslim world; and the international community's current push to partition Bosnia along ethnic lines is strengthening many Bosnians' Muslim identity, the Boston Globe reported. Yet the Serbian Orthodox church and Jewish synagogue, as well as Catholic churches, continue to operate freely in Bosnian-controlled sections of Sarajevo, even though Croats as well as Serbs have "cleansed" Muslims from Bosnian land.
"Up to 70 percent of (aid) shipments to Bosnia have been siphoned off at Croat-imposed bottlenecks, according to UN reports," the Globe also notes in an article about Croat nationalists' desire to carve their own ministate from Bosnian territory.
CROATIA REVOKES REFUGEE STATUS FOR 100,000. An estimated 100,000 Bosnians will lose their refugee status in Croatia and be sent back to territory recently won back by Bosnian and Croat forces. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees criticized the move, saying refugees should not be forcibly sent back while the war is still raging. But the Bosnian government, eager for refugees abroad to return home, approved the move.
FRENCH PILOTS STILL MISSING. Two French airmen shot down over Bosnia are believed to be held by Serb forces. Several attempts by NATO to find and rescue the men failed; the French are now trying to negotiate for their release.
POW EXCHANGE. Thirty-four prisoners of war -- 17 from each side -- were exchanged at Sarajevo airport Tuesday. It was the first such exchange in half a year. Other exchanges are planned, including 65 Serb soldiers for 106 Bosnian soldiers and civilians near Tuzla.
PRAISE FOR THE FIFTH CORPS. U.S. ambassadors to Croatia and Bosnia- Hercegovina praised the Bosnian Army's Fifth Corps for reuniting the town of Bosanska Krupa -- divided by Serb extremists for the past 3.5 years. "We commend the Fifth Corps for the liberation -- and the heroism they've displayed over the years,'' said John Menzies, ambassador-designate to Bosnia.