Sarajevo takes heart at victory over Serbs

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The Independent Online
Sarajevo is enjoying the scent of optimism along with spring-like weather. Citizens are delighting in their first taste of victory; soldiers are dizzy with tales of courage restored and spirits lifted after the fall of the Serb-held town of Kupres.

``Morale is like it was at the very beginning of the war - you go to fight with your whole heart,'' said Nurko, reunited with his girlfriend, Milada, yesterday after a stint at the front in the offensive for Trnovo, south of Sarajevo.

``It's wonderful,'' said Ljiljana Cvijic, a bookseller. ``Now we have a good reason for following all the news.'' The Sarajevo daily, Oslobodenje, announced in a banner headline, as if it could be news to anyone 12 hours after the event: ``Liberators enter Kupres''. The first town to fall out of Serb control - and into the hands of the Bosnian Croat militia, acting in concert with its Muslim-led allies for the first time - was cause for celebration and some apprehension.

People are so conditioned to expect the worst that many are spooked by the lack of a Serb response to the Bosnian attacks in Bihac, Kupres, Gradacac and Trnovo. ``I'm worried about the Serbs,'' Ms Cvijic said. ``They can attack Sarajevo and cut off our utilities any time, although I think it would not help them with the international community or the UN.'' The peace-keepers hope she is right. At any rate, trams are moving, lights are on, water is hot, the airlift is running and, so far, the Serbs have not interfered.

``The enemy won't see spring,'' boasted Suad, who returns to the front line tomorrow. ``Results from other parts of the line really affect us - success raises our morale, our fighting spirit.'' Stories abound of previously disaffected soldiers volunteering for service on Mount Igman, where the first hint of Bosnian resurgence came last month in two successful commando raids.

``When you hear about great results on one part of the line it inspires you, you just feel like doing the same thing,'' agreed Nurko. ``We capture so many weapons we don't need the arms embargo [on the Bosnian government] lifted. We are doing it ourselves . . . We are quite a new brigade, and at first we had nothing. Now, thank God, we have all we need.'' He laughed: ``We could even sell some tanks to them, we've captured so many.''

Unfortunately for Nurko, his view is not shared by many outsiders. The Bosnian army has undoubtedly improved as the Serbs have waned, but the result is likely to be the avoidance of absolute defeat rather than total victory.

``From what I've heard, it's going to be the end of the war,'' said Milada. ``It's the beginning of the end,'' added Nurko. It isn't - it is the beginning of a third, cruel winter.