Serbs defy NATO, refuse to leave Gorazde section

April 29, 1994|By New York Times News Service

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Despite assurances by NATO that the Bosnian Serbs have complied with its ultimatum to withdraw from Gorazde, their forces are refusing to leave a southern area of the town because, they say, it was populated by Serbs before the Bosnian war erupted.

But, a senior Western official said, the Bosnian Serb civilians appear to have been brought in to the Zupcici section of Gorazde after the Serbian offensive began a month ago.

The official said yesterday that at least 65 armed Bosnian Serbs were now guarding the civilians.

The official's remarks called into question statements this week by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and by Lt. General Sir Michael Rose of Britain, the commander of United Nations forces in Bosnia.

Their statements affirmed that the Bosnian Serbs had fully complied with the NATO ultimatum.

In fact, it appears that a highly complex standoff, reflecting the migration of persecuted populations that has taken place during this war, has developed between the Bosnian Serb forces and the Muslims in the Zupcici area, well within the NATO exclusion zone at Gorazde.

Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander, apparently has insisted that any such withdrawal would leave the newly arrived Serbian civilians in Zupcici acutely vulnerable to attack by the Muslims, and has therefore refused to move the men guarding them.

In a separate development, reports from Gorazde yesterday continued to suggest that early accounts may have exaggerated the extent of the damage and the number of casualties during the Bosnian Serb siege over the last month.

A U.N. official who visited Gorazde said damage to the hospital was less severe than he had expected.

It also appeared unlikely that as many as 700 people had been killed and 2,000 had been wounded, as earlier reported.

Journalists have still not been allowed inside the town by Bosnian Serb authorities.

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