Talks on Bosnia Teeter as Serbs Roll Over Hill Near Sarajevo
BOSNIAN President Alija Izetbegovic still had not shown up for peace talks at presstime yesterday, and mediator Lord David Owen worried that the Muslim leader would pull out entirely in hopes that the United States would intervene militarily against the Bosnian Serbs.
The Bosnian government said yesterday that Serb forces had launched a major offensive to capture Mt. Bjelasnica overlooking Sarajevo, and Mr. Izetbegovic had indicated he would not return to the table until the Serbs withdrew from the mountain area.
Interior Minister Bakir Alispahic said about 10 villages in the area were burned. The Belgrade-based news agency Tanjug on Sunday quoted Bosnian Serb sources as saying they had captured Bjelasnica, tightening the siege of Sarajevo and threatening the city's western approaches.
Izetbegovic attended the Geneva negotiations reluctantly. He had resisted partition for months, but his outgunned government came under increasing international pressure to accept a Serb-Croat plan to divide the former Yugoslav republic along ethnic lines.
During the delay in the Geneva talks yesterday, the US convened an emergency meeting in Brussels with its NATO allies to discuss joint air attacks in Bosnia. The Clinton administration told its NATO allies Sunday that it was prepared to act alone if European nations veto the use of allied air power to pressure Serbs to lift their siege of Sarajevo.
International mediator Lord Owen said he hoped Izetbegovic would not pull out of the talks to prompt the airstrikes. "I certainly hope the statements made by the United States are not used by him as a reason" to withdraw from the talks, Owen said.
Meanwhile, an outbreak of fighting between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia has prevented UN convoys from bringing aid into the region, where thousands are hungry and without water.
Peter Kessler, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Sarajevo, said yesterday that no aid trucks would leave the agency's depot on the Croatian coast to enter central Bosnia because of the latest fighting. Mr. Kessler also said six tankers loaded with diesel fuel for Sarajevo also would not leave the coast. The fuel is needed to pump well water for some 100,000 Sarajevans.