Worst Fighting Since Dayton Accord
As 22 Fires Burn Out of Control
(SARAJEVO, March 17Reuters) NATO troops rescued people from burning apartment buildings on Sunday and detained a dozen men suspected of looting and arson in a lawless Serb-held suburb of Sarajevo.
Heavily-armed Italian soldiers marched the 12 suspects to the Bosnian Serb police station in Grbavica, which is due on Tuesday to become the last of five Serb areas handed over to the Muslim-Croat Federation under the Dayton peace pact. But there was no sign the detentions had discouraged the rampant arson, which local Serb authorities have done nothing to stop. The Serb police have the final say about the fate of the suspects.
Fires Out of Control but Serbs Refuse to Act
Workers for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) said they had counted 22 fires in Grbavica on Sunday afternoon, which included the town's large covered market. As plumes of smoke hung in the air, Italian troops in armoured vehicles raced from one fire to another, rescuing civilians.
The fires were burning unattended because the Serb fire department refused to take action, viewing anyone who had decided to stay as a traitor. Firefighters from the Muslim-Croat Federation were reluctant to cross into the Serb-held district since one of their crews was attacked with grenades on Friday. "These are not human beings doing this, these are animals," said an old woman as her son's car went up in flames in front of her flat. NATO troops evacuated a burning building 10 minutes after a fire erupted on the upper floor. An Italian soldier carried out an elderly woman who was too frail to escape. Her husband managed to walk out of the building unscathed apart from singed eyebrows. He said all the tenants of the building knew the two thugs who had started the fire. "They don't want to leave anything behind for the Muslims," he said.
So Much for a Multi-Ethnic Sarajevo
Tens of thousands of civilians across Bosnia have fled areas being handed over in territorial swaps under the terms of the Dayton peace accord reached four months ago. "What's happening now is de facto partition along ethnic lines, which is unlikely to produce stability. That suggests more conflict or an extended role for NATO and the international community, with Bosnia a sort of protectorate," a Western diplomat said.
Bosnia's acting president Ejup Ganic arrived in Geneva on Sunday for talks with the presidents of Serbia and Croatia and Western envoys, including U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, on the problems facing the Dayton peace deal. Echoing growing international fears about the federation's prospects, its Croat president on Sunday said Bosnia's Muslims and Croats would need three to four years to cement peace.
Stability is Years Away Say Officials
"There is not a single sphere of life or work where Croats and Muslims completely agree... I estimate we will need three to four years to achieve stability (in the federation)," Kresimir Zubak told the Croatian newspaper Vecernji List. He said the crux of the federation's woes was that Croats regarded the state as a union of two distinct, equal nations while the Muslims wanted to establish a unitary state where they, as the majority, would dominate.
Diplomats have said the federation could disintegrate into a new war if NATO troops leave as scheduled at the end of 1996 as Muslims and Croats are paying only lip service to the deal.
In divided Mostar, a flashpoint of federation tensions, Muslim protesters on Sunday lifted their blockade of southern Bosnia's main transit road after Croat police allowed them to visit ancestral cemeteries on Croat-held land.
Berserkistan is the world news service of
Pacific Interactive Media Corp.
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