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UN: Muslims and Serbs to Blame for Demise of Multi-Ethnic Bosnia
As NATO Prepares to Help Evacuate Serbs
Dream of Ethnic Harmony Dies in Sarajevo

NATO Commander Adm. Leighton Smith Meeting Serbs in Vogosca Saturday While NATO was meeting Serb army officers on Sunday to work out the details of Serb evacuations from Vogosca and the nearby suburb of Ilijas, the United Nations accused both the Bosnians and Serbs of undermining efforts to preserve a multi-ethnic Bosnia.

Before the 3½-year war, more than a quarter of Sarajevoís half-million population were Serbs. They are now estimated to make up less than 10 percent of the 300,000 people left.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kris Janowski, said Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation police were helping fan panic among the Serbs. "Considering how paranoid these (Serb) people are, how afraid they are, what may be a harmless house call by the federal police may tip the balance, may be perceived as harrassment."

Janowski lashed out at Bosnian Serb parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik, acusing him of helping spark the exodus.

"The problem is that he basically gave us a lot of trouble by scaring those poor people, by manipulating the media and now of course he wants to take them out because every Serb staying in Sarajevo is an insult to him or a challenge to him," he said.

Although publicly calling on people to stay in Sarajevo, the Bosnian Serb leadership has had entire factories in Serb districts dismantled and transported into Serb territory.

Serb Army Convoys to Roll on Monday
MAP: Sarajevo & Suburbs On Sunday, NATO wrestled with the tricky problem of letting Serb military vehicles into the demilitarized Sarajevo suburbs to collect those wishing to leave.

On Saturday, NATO commander Adm. Leighton Smith agreed to provide NATO assistance to Serbs who want to leave. Smith also okayed a request for Serb military trucks to enter Vogosca and other the Serb suburbs to help in the evacuation.

Serb army vehicles assembled in a Serb military camp in the southern part of Sarajevo, ready to depart in convoys Monday morning, said NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Rayner. The number of vehicles, and their routes were being kept secret, although Rayner said the trucks would have military plates removed and the unarmed drivers would wear civilian clothes.

'The whole of Sarajevo is at stake'
The U.N.'s Janowski, at a joint Sunday briefing with Rayner, said: "The fewer Serbs remaining in Sarajevo the worse it is for the efforts here to piece the country together again." Janowski said the United Nations will not participate in the evacuation because "we want them to stay. The whole of Sarajevo is at stake here, and the issue of multi-ethnicity of the country."

NATO Troops Keep Watch over Sarajevo
Outright thievery is crippling the once-propsperous towns on the outskirts of Sarajevo. "Day by day, things like the telephone exchanges, electricity cables, crucial parts of the water system are disappearing. They are being removed by the Serb authorities and gangs of thieves," Jankowski said.

Next Handover: Ilidza on Thursday
In a meeting Sunday in the suburb of Ilidza, to be transferred to federal police control March 13, hundreds of Serbs who want to remain in their homes gathered in a battered school hall to elect an emergency council to represent them. The mayor and his deputies have either left or are busy packing.

Ilidzaís pre-Dayton accord population of 25,000 has shrunk to about 7,000 in recent weeks.

Zorica Vujisic, a 65-year-old pediatrician, said that when she finished her shift at a local clinic Saturday night, local Serb authorities told her the clinic was being shut down Sunday.

"We must stop the community from dying," she said. "People must be able to freely choose whether to go or stay, but they must not be made to choose between nothing here and hope elsewhere."

NATO's Adm. Smith Promises Help for
Serbs Who Want to Leave Sarajevo Suburbs

On Saturday, NATO commander Adm. Leighton Smith agreed to provide NATO assistance to Serbs who want to leave Sarajevo's suburbs. In an unexpected move that capped a week of tumultuous events in Vogosca, Smith okayed a request for Serb military trucks to enter Vogosca and other the Serb suburbs, and promised NATO help to all Serbs who want to leave Sarajevo. "I think if we provide them with escorts ... it will make things nice and clean," Smith said. "They have obviously chosen, themselves, to move."

Smith accused the Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb authorities of having done too little, too late to persuade Serbs to stay in the five suburbs, which will come under Muslim-Croat federation rule by March 19. He said Serb civilians should have received reassurances and offers of assistance six weeks ago.

Red Cross Warehouse Looted, Burned
Hours after Smith and his party left Saturday, the Red Cross warehouse in Vogosca was set ablaze by unknown arsonists. The building, ransacked by Serb looters on Friday, was burning fiercely, with federal police officers unable to extinguish the flames. Angry Serbs Shout at Mediator Carl Bildt Angry, frightened Serbs confronted mediator Carl Bildt earlier on Saturday, demanding transportation to evacuate them from a Sarajevo suburb now under Muslim-Croat control. "I am quite confident you can stay here," Bildt, the major powers' representative in Bosnia, assured more than 200 of Vogosca's Serb civilians in a packed room at the town hall. He failed to convince them.

No One Dies, Though Problems were Many
as Sarajevo Reclaimed its First Suburb

The reclaiming of Vogosca was hardly the smooth transfer hoped for. The problems, however, by comparison to the possibility of another Balkan massacre, were few:

  • Muslim-Croat police violated the peace plan, wearing the Bosnian government insignia rather than federation symbols, and replacing Serb flags with Bosnian government banners instead of federation flags.
  • Only 90 of 1,700 international police are patrolling Vogosca.
  • The U.S. has provided only one police officer. Poland and Ireland have sent 30 each. 10 other countries — Denmark, Russia, Kenya, Jordan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, France, Germany and Sweden — have sent smaller contingents. Budget concerns are keeping the force low.
  • The police teams are disprganized and have no experience working together. Few speak the language, relying on translators and two-way radios.
Red Cross Warehouse Looted, Burned
Hours after NATO Adm. Leighton Smith and his party toured the Sarajevo suburbs on Saturday, the Red Cross warehouse in Vogosca was set ablaze by unknown arsonists. The building, ransacked by Serb looters on Friday, was burning fiercely, with federal police officers unable to extinguish the flames.

The town's fire-fighting equipment was gone with the exodus of most of its Serb population earlier this week. NATO spokesman Capt. Jacques Faugeux said his troops would offer security to firefighters from other parts of Sarajevo but would not put out the blaze themselves.

As They Leave, Serbs Burn, Trash or Loot the
Town They Occupied for Nearly Four Years

The new mayor of Vogosca took over a virtual ghost town on Friday (Feb 23), and assured frightened Bosnian Serbs they would be safe under Muslim-Croat federationrule.

But the few Serb civilians who had not already fled the first Sarajevo suburb to revert to Muslim control since the war gathered in an anxious crowd outside the town hall to demand transport so they too could leave.

Franch NATO Troop Watches the Exodus An international police force meant to assure the safety of the Serbs was patrolling Vogosca streets at 6 a.m., about an hour before the arrival of a federal police team of Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs and about 90 U.N. monitors. But the international force amounted to only a handful of the hundreds who were supposed to be there.

The NATO-led force had insisted that the Serbs had nothing to fear. In Vogosca, it distributed pamphlets saying: "Don't believe the rumors! You can stay in your homes!"

Replacing Serb Sign at Vogosca Police Dept.

Only 2,500 Remain in Town of 17,000
Serb police had already departed, leaving a trashed and rubbish-strewn police station. The hospital was barely functioning, shops deserted, and even as the police moved in buses waited to take more Serbs away.

At the decrepit clinic, one of the few doctors remaining said there was no running water, electricty or telephones. "Hygiene is non-existent. It will soon get very dirty," said Milos Stevanovic. A lot of hospital equipment had been taken away and Stevanovic said he was staying on until March 19 when he, too, would leave.

Muhamed Kozadra, Vogosca's new mayor, told reporters, "First we want to establish contact with the people who stayed. We must check the infrastructure to see what houses people can live in."

He appealed to Serbs to stay, saying the new police force would guarantee their safety. Rajko Koprivica, who until Thurday night was the Serb mayor, also said people should stay but declined to attend handover ceremonies.

Serbs Flee Suburbs in Horse Cart Those Left Behind Are Panicked and Scared
By mid-morning, a crowd of mostly old folk had gathered outside the town hall hoping someone would help them leave. "If we have no transport we will walk," said one old woman. "We suffered killing, bombing, it's a shame we have to leave. The international community promised to help us," a man butted in as others agreed.

The international community, however, wanted the Serbs to stay as part of the goal of rebuilding a multi-ethnic Bosnia. Officials accuse the Bosnian Serb leadership of inciting a needless exodus.

"Never in the history of this country have so many urged by so few abandoned needlesly so much for so little reason," said Colum Murphy, aide to international High Representative Carl Bildt. Bildt, visiting Vogosca, called the Serb flight a tragedy which showed how deep the gulf was between Bosnians after 3½ years of war.

By the hundreds, through a damp, heavy snow, Bosnian Serbs poured out of Sarajevo's suburbs mid-week in a line of cars, trucks, tractors—even horse-drawn carts. Early Wednesday, the exodus was more like a trickle, partly because snowfall blocked roads east of Sarajevo. Trucks and buses struggled through up to three feet of snow to carry more Serbs out of the city.

Mother and child run from nursery set ablaze by fleeing Serbs
But as the day wore on, a steady flow of vehicles packed with furniture and personal belongings moved out of Vogosca and other Serb-held suburbs. Many other people were packing to leave.

"Iíd hope that many of the Serbs will remain in Sarajevo, especially those who had longstanding residences in Sarajevo," Secretary of State Warren Christopher said in Washington. But downed power and phone lines kept Christopher's message from getting through, or overpowering the Bosnian Serb propaganda inciting fear in Vogosca's residents.

Those left behind without transportation screamed their frustration at the mayor of the Sarejevo suburb of Vogosca. "This is the same crap you gave us yesterday," one dissatisfied man yelled at the mayor. "We don't want any more of it. We want trucks and buses to move our families out of here."


Reclaims Vogosca After Nearly 4 Years The Bosnian Serb leadership promised to send fuel and trucks to support the departure, but the transportation never turned up and two days of snow and downed telephone lines have left Vogosca residents in terror.

"We've seen to it that the roads are open and that there are no mines so people have the choice to stay or leave," the U.N. Police chief of staff, Colonel Detlef Buwitt, said in Vogosca. "There's a lot of fear among the Serbs here. Most of them don't have transport. We can't provide the trucks and buses, that's up to the Bosnian Serb leadership. A lot of people here feel trapped."

Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, angrily accused Bosnian Serb leaders of trying to trigger mass flight for their own ends. "A number of people have left, but itís not the mass exodus the Serb authorities appear to want," Janowski said. TV broadcasts urging people to leave are "part of a campaign of manipulation to get people out, to create a psychosis," he added.

Near-Riot When Serb Trucks Fail to Show
By Wednesday, hundreds of residents, desperate to leave and angry that promised buses and trucks did not arrive to pick them up, staged a near-riot in front of the town hall. Several were hospitalized. Serbs removed piles of documents from the town hall Tuesday and set them ablaze. Workers stripped the building of everything of value, down to doors and old chairs.

Rajko Koprivica, Vogosca's mayor, said it was the worst day he can remember since the Bosnian war began more than three years ago. "It was chaos here today," Koprivica said. "Everyone wants to be evacuated in three days, but it's impossible in three or even 10 days. People are afraid, they're upset, they think they've been betrayed. Since this morning, God is against us as well as everyone else."

Serb Leadership Split on Exodus
Not all Bosnian Serb leaders were calling on their countrymen to leave. Maksim Stainisic, a senior Sarajevo Serb official, urged Serbs to think twice before departing.

Solobodan Milosevic The Bosnian Serbsí prime minister, Rajko Kasagic, said conditions existed for "Serbs in Sarajevo to have confidence in the authorities." The mixed signals reflected the deep rift between Bosnian Serb hard-liners and those loyal to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic who has emerged as a peacemaker and approved the handover of Serb-held territory.

One Western official said that, far from being marginalised, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic appeared to be staging a comeback. "They have nothing to gain from the peace and everything to lose," he said. "The Bosnian Serb leadership has placed every obstacle they can in the way of us getting across the message that people will be safe."

NATO is applying little pressure on the Bosnian Serbs in hopes that Serbian president Solobodan Milosevic will apply that pressure for them. Warren Christopher said it is the responsibility of both Serbs and the Muslim-led government to encourage them to remain in their homes.

Soft Threats of Serb Sanctions
At the State Department in Washington, spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Serbs were not going far enough in fulfilling their commitments to the peace deal to warrant an early U.S. push to lift U.N. sanctions. But spreading blame, he acknowledged that Bosnia's Muslim-led government had yet to force all foreign fighters from its soil.

State Department secretary Warren Christopher added that U.N. trade sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs would not be relaxed unless they cooperate fully with NATO. He also said the U.S. would stand by its plan to remove U.S. troops by the end of the year. "If it were a longer period of time, it could be an excuse for the parties to not get into compliance," he said.

  • State Department Press Briefing for February 20

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