Relief supplies reach Bosnia, but fights rage Sarajevo under fire as EC envoy ends fruitless peace talks

July 04, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

SARAJEVO BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA — SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The United Nations airlift to Sarajevo hit full stride yesterday, but a European Community envoy failed to renew peace talks, and the worst fighting in days erupted.

Serbian artillery barrages rained down on several Sarajevo neighborhoods from the surrounding hills and from the central part of the city around midnight. Tracer bullets, mortar fire and heavy shells also fell on the western suburb of Dobrinja, near the airport.

The barrage occurred shortly after Britain's Lord Carrington, head of the EC's conference on Yugoslavia, left the city after a day of fruitless negotiations and after the airlift of supplies to this relieved city had gotten under way in earnest.

Ten cargo planes, including two Air Force C-130 Hercules from the U.S. base at Rhein-Main in Germany, flew tons of food, medicine and equipment into Sarajevo's Butmir airport.

U.N. troops quickly transported the aid to the capital.

Britain, France, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden also sent military flights to Sarajevo before dusk yesterday.

"I just wish we could have brought more," said Air Force Sgt. Jim Main, exhausted after unloading supplies.

The first U.S. C-130 Hercules landed shortly after noon. It was emptied in a seven-minute cloud of dust as turboprops were left running for a quick escape in case of a Serbian artillery barrage or sniper fire from surrounding hills.

The wary pilot, Lt. Col. Harlan Ray, was in such a hurry to leave that he almost left behind his flight assistant, Terry Mack, who had run to the control tower for clearance.

The assistant raced across the tarmac as the plane's cargo door was closing. He yelled and banged on the door and was hauled aboard, along with another crew member who had almost gotten left behind.

Air Force officials in Germany said they would send two cargo planes a day for the next 15 to 30 days.

A contingent of more than 700 Canadian troops also arrived from Croatia, where they were engaged in another U.N. peacekeeping mission. They join other Canadians in securing the vital road between Butmir airport and the Bosnian capital.

But while the airlift fully functioned for the first time yesterday, a day that completed three months of the Serb siege on Sarajevo, hope for an end to the conflict quickly faded.

Concluding a six-hour visit, Lord Carrington said at a news conference that the Muslim-led Bosnian government wanted to see an effective seven-day cease-fire and U.N. control of Serbian guns on the hills around the city before it would negotiate.

The leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, refused these conditions but said he was prepared to talk.

"This was a dispiriting afternoon," Lord Carrington said after meeting the two sides separately in their own zones of control.

Lord Carrington's failed mission illustrated again the deepening rift between Serbs, who want Bosnia-Herzegovina divided into three separate ethnic sectors -- Serbs, Croatians and Muslims -- and the Muslim-led government of Alija Izetbegovic, which wants an independent, unified country.

Both sides are fighting over the multiethnic Bosnian capital, saying that Sarajevo is the key to their aspirations. Each side accuses the other of atrocities and "ethnic cleansing" of villages and towns.

Lord Carrington's mission, five days after the dramatic visit of France's President Francois Mitterrand, indicated that the Bosnian government has pinned its main hopes on foreign intervention.

Lord Carrington said a Croatian delegate sitting in on the talks with Mr. Izetbegovic had failed "to give me the nod that Bosnian Croatians would support our plan."

The European Community plan, which both sides have now turned down, was to partition Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatian forces have been fighting alongside Bosnian Muslims against Bosnian Serbs.

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