Frontline tense but precarious peace is holding in Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
BURSTS of gunfire on a tense frontline in central Sarajevo yesterday marred the city's ceasefire for a second consecutive day but United Nations officials maintained that the truce was holding throughout Bosnia, writes Robert Block.

'The ceasefire is going well all over Bosnia-Herzegovina except for small-arms fire, which is insignificant,' said Lieutenant Colonel Bill Aikman, spokesman for the UN Protection Force (Unprofor). Earlier, Bosnian Serb forces besieging Sarajevo fired four mortar bombs towards positions held by the mainly Muslim Bosnian army in the southern part of the city. Small- arms fire could be heard for about five minutes.

In central Bosnia, the ceasefire signed on Friday by Bosnian Croats and Muslims appears to have been generally respected.

But in the northern town of Maglaj, besieged by Serbs, UN officials were unable to comment on reports that 4,000 shells had fallen on the city and neighboring towns the previous day. A convoy for Maglaj was stranded in Zenica yesterday, and it may be two or three days before it is allowed to proceed through a kilometre of Serbian territory.

Hopes of reaching Maglaj rose after Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, agreed to let the UN reopen the nearby Tuzla airport for humanitarian flights. But those hopes were dashed yesterday when Yasushi Akashi, the UN special envoy, said the agreement which called for Russian troops to monitor the airport was not good enough for the airlift to start.

A team of Russian military experts is due in Croatia today to prepare for 25 Russian observers to be deployed in Tuzla. But Mr Akashi said he could not accept the Russian deployment without approval from the Bosnian government.

'What was discussed in Moscow between Russian authorities and Mr Karadzic is a matter of interest to us, but that is not the total solution,' Mr Akashi said. 'The Bosnian government has not yet agreed to this, so not all the cards have been put in place.'

(Photograph omitted)