Bosnia ceasefire is finally agreed by all sides

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The Independent Online
EMMA DALY

Sarajevo

The killing and the ethnic cleansing continued almost to the last moment but, after a two day delay, the guns were finally expected to fall silent across Bosnia at midnight last night.

This was the 36th ceasefire of the three year civil war but the first to offer any real hope of lasting peace. The delay, caused by arguments over the restoration of gas and electricity supplies to Sarajevo, allowed - coincidentally or not - Bosnian government forces to seize two towns from the rebel Serbs.

The Bosnian government army's crack 5th Corps said the seizing of Sanski Most and Mrkonjic Grad paved the way for "liberating" Prijedor and Banja Luka in northern Bosnia, but a Western military monitor was sceptical that the Bosnian army would strike out for the Serb strongholds. The thrust into Bosnian Serb territory in the north was nevertheless the deepest of the war.

Antonio Pedauye, the United Nations chief in Bosnia, said last night that all sides had agreed to a 60-day ceasefire, which will allow further negotiations on the outline peace settlement brokered by the US special envoy, Richard Holbrooke.

But though the guns may cease firing, the suffering of civilians - Serb and Muslim - will continue. Some 40,000 Serb refugees were moving east last night towards Banja Luka from the newly fallen towns. At the same time, thousands of the the remaining Muslim residents of Serb-held northern Bosnia had been forcibly expelled across the front lines by Serbs.

The UN now has the unenviable task of implementing the truce, which is to last for two months or until there is a conclusion to the peace talks due to take place in Washington, London and Paris. UN officials speak only of "monitoring and facilitating" the ceasefire, rather than enforcing it. Peace-keepers will also escort civilian convoys to and from the besieged eastern enclave of Gorazde.

British-French clash, page 12

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