SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- A U.S.-brokered cease-fire was expected to take effect Tuesday even though it appeared unlikely that a condition for the truce -- the full restoration of utilities to Sarajevo -- would be met on time, Bosnian and United Nations officials said yesterday.
Under the cease-fire agreement, the 60-day truce is to begin at one minute past midnight Tuesday (7:01 p.m. Eastern time), providing that full gas and electrical service is restored in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, and that two roads are opened connecting Sarajevo to the besieged Muslim enclave of Gorazde.
If service is not restored by Tuesday, the agreement calls for the cease-fire to take effect a minute past midnight on the day service resumes.
Several snags have hindered the U.N. operation to provide Sarajevo with gas and electricity, which have been cut by the Serbs since May and frequently disrupted during the previous years of war.
The Russian Federation did not send gas through a pipeline that passes through Hungary yesterday as scheduled. And U.N. engineers were unable to reach an area northwest of Sarajevo, where three pylons and severed electrical cables lie in fields mined by Bosnian Croat forces.
"I am not even able to get my mind around what the difficulty with the Russian Federation is exactly," said a senior U.N. official working on the restoration of utilities.
"The deadline we were given was already tight, but we have not been able to get our engineers in to put the cable and the pylons back up. We hope they will go in on Sunday."
The cease-fire will be followed at the end of the month by peace talks in the United States among the three warring factions.
Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic, at a meeting in Warsaw, said that if the restoration of utilities was delayed for technical reasons, and not what he termed "obstruction by the Serb terrorists," the cease-fire would go ahead Tuesday.
He went on to call for some $12 billion in aid to help rebuild Bosnia but opposed any international assistance to Serbian-held parts of the country.
"So the message is, kill your neighbor and you will get aid," he said. "I cannot prevent anyone helping Serbia if they want to, but putting it in one package, the victim and the aggressor, is not right."
Meanwhile, U.N. officials expressed concern about last-minute land grabs by the Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb armies in northern and central Bosnia, as well as about the movement of Croatian army troops into Bosnia.
Bosnian news media said government forces had captured 20 square miles in the Mount Ozren area of northern Bosnia and were advancing on the Serb-held town of Doboj.
The capture of Doboj would threaten the Serbs' narrow corridor across northern Bosnia, linking the two large Serbian areas, and endanger Serbs' positions around their stronghold of Banja Luka.
The Bosnian government, which had withdrawn from some front-line positions in central Bosnia in the latest Serbian counter-offensive, has been bolstered in the past few days by Croatian army units, U.N. officials said.
Backed by Croatian heavy guns, the Bosnian government has halted the Serbs' drive to recapture Bosanska Krupa and Kljuc, which government forces took last month, these officials said. officials said two Croatian artillery battalions had crossed the border into the Bihac area in the past few days.
The Croats, they said, also hope to take control of the east bank of the Una River near Bosanski Novi. This would give them control of the main railway link between the Croatian capital, Zagreb, and Split, on the Adriatic coast.
"Croatian troops join our forces in protecting liberated territory in western Bosnia from Serb attack," said Mirza Hajaric, a senior Bosnian Foreign Ministry official.
He added, "If the cease-fire is not instituted, these forces will help further military initiatives."
Croatian officials deny that they harbor further territorial ambitions and say that they are attempting only to bolster their Bosnian government allies. Also, President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia has promised to honor the cease-fire.
Belgrade newspapers seen as expressing the views of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic forecast that the cease-fire would bring an end to the conflict that began when Bosnian Serbs opposed the country's independence from former Yugoslavia.
"An avalanche of peace has begun to move and it will be difficult to stop it in the weeks to come," the daily Borba wrote in a commentary.
"It is time to lay down arms and sit at the negotiating table for as long as is necessary."
Mr. Milosevic is negotiating on behalf of Bosnian Serbs who held out for more than a year against a Big Power peace plan for Bosnia.