Bosnian Serbs break promise to leave Gorazde

May 24, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-led government hunkered down for a long standoff yesterday when the rebels violated a second promise to withdraw all their armed forces from Gorazde and the government reaffirmed that it would boycott further peace talks in protest.

The rebel army's chief of staff, Gen. Manojlo Milovanovic, had signed an agreement with the United Nations Protection Force here over the weekend pledging that all gun-toting Serbs, in army uniforms or otherwise, would be out of Gorazde by 6 p.m. Sunday.

But most of the 150 armed Serbs masquerading as policemen remained in the U.N.-protected "safe area," said a U.N. spokesman, Maj. Rob Annink.

The Bosnian government views Gorazde as a critical test of U.N. commitment to enforce any agreement involving the Serbs and has said it will boycott peace talks until the issue is settled.

"Obviously, the success of peace talks depends on total cessation of hostilities, which in turn depends on withdrawal from the [1.9-mile U.N. exclusion] zone," Sergio De Mello, the U.N. civil affairs chief in Bosnia, said after meeting with Bosnian Premier Haris Silajdzic. Without total withdrawal, there appears little chance of resuming negotiations, he said.

Representatives of Bosnia's three warring factions are scheduled to meet separately this week with envoys from the United States, Russia, France, Britain and Germany, whose governments are trying to broker a settlement.

The Bosnian Serb news agency, SRNA, accused the Bosnian government of preventing the pullout by refusing to sign the U.N.-mediated agreement outlining the terms of the Serbian withdrawal.

Major Annink said that General Milovanovic had not insisted on any additional signatures when he approved the terms Saturday with the U.N. commander for Bosnia, British Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose.

The agreement was in any case a restatement of the Serbs' promise of a month ago to leave the exclusion zone proclaimed around Gorazde, after NATO threatened air strikes if the Serbs failed to comply.

Mr. Silajdzic said he was refusing to sign any renegotiated terms of the NATO ultimatum on principle.

"There was an ultimatum, and a U.N. resolution," Mr. Silajdzic said. "If you start renegotiating the terms of an ultimatum and signing new agreements about what has been ordered, where does it end?"

The exclusion zone was proclaimed around Gorazde's city center after Serbian forces overran nearly half of the U.N. haven last month, driving thousands of Muslim civilians from their homes in the conquered areas and killing hundreds in a fierce bombardment that drew two token NATO air strikes and raised the threat of others.

Mr. Silajdzic said the Bosnian government would continue to insist on a resolution of the Gorazde standoff before resuming negotiations aimed at an overall cease-fire for Bosnia.

The NATO ultimatum had also threatened air strikes if the Serbian rebels continued to hamper the movement of U.N. troops and aid convoys headed for Gorazde. But that issue, too, has been thrown open to negotiation.

Major Annink said the Serbs had informed the U.N. mission here that its personnel's movements would be restricted until the 570 Serbian residents of Gorazde are delivered to Serb-held territory and government forces vacate a hill within the exclusion zone.

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