Ceasefire hopes rise despite Nato strikes

Bosnia conflict: US envoy talks of serious proposal by Bosnian government as peace mission starts to regain momentum

EMMA DALY

Bihac

and Agencies

There were renewed hopes of an early ceasefire yesterday, despite a brief resumption of Nato air-strikes and further gains by Serb forces counter- attacking in north-west Bosnia. After meeting officials in Sarajevo, Richard Holbrooke, the US peace envoy, said the Bosnian government had made a "serious proposal" for a ceasefire.

Jadranko Prlic, a Croat who is vice-premier of the Bosnian government, told the Sarajevo daily newspaper Oslobodjenje that a resolution of the war may be near. "I am not being an optimist," he said. "I am just really assessing the situation.In the next few weeks, we will have a definitive solution." Aleksa Buha, foreign minister in the self-declared Bosnian Serb state, said a cease-fire "could be signed on 20 October in Washington".

The optimism was ruffled by the first Nato air raids for two weeks when warplanes fired missiles at three Bosnian Serb radar sites. Nato said Serb anti-aircraft radar locked onto the planes and they fired in self- defence. A spokesman said the planes fired two missiles at sites in southern and central Bosnia, and that a third was fired at a site in central Bosnia.

Despite these attacks, it appeared that the US peace mission, which had been running into the usual Balkan quicksands, might be regaining momentum. Mr Holbrooke has gained general agreements on a territorial division of Bosnia between multi-ethnic and Serb statelets and power-sharing in a postwar government. A ceasefire could pave the way for a full-scale peace conference to establish the final details. The envoy is due to meet the Serb President, Slobodan Milosevic, in Belgrade today.

The Bosnian government's willingness to consider a ceasefire may be linked to the success of the Bosnian Serbs in regaining some of the territory in northern Bosnia rolled over by Muslims and Croats last month. Exhausted and disgruntled, the Bosnian Army Fifth Corps is falling back slowly before a rebel Serb counter-attack along a front line stretching more than 100 miles from Otoka, 5 miles north of Bosanska Krupa to the main road leading to the Serb-held town of Mrkonjic Grad.

"The situation is not that good at the moment - I've been on the line for 23 days without a break and now I only have 24 hours off," said a Fifth Corps soldier in Bosanska Krupa. A punk with a studded dog-collar and a bandolier, he was silenced by a disapproving military policeman who announced that morale was good. The Serbs had taken some ground to the north and east but "it's a tactic", he explained.

There are similar tales from soldiers in and around the town of Kljuc, the base for troops advancing north to Sanski Most and east to Mrkonjic Grad. "They brought us from Sarajevo to work as police in Kljuc then they sent us to the front line to fight like ordinary soldiers," said one young man, limping from a wound he said was caused by fragments from a missile fired from a Serb aircraft.

After the stunning success of the September offensive by the Fifth Corps attacking out of Bihac - where they had been under severe siege for more than three years - in concert with Croatian troops, the momentum has died. A few days ago the Tigers, an elite unit of the Fifth Corps, had to make a stand to allow their comrades to escape during an attack that went horribly wrong. The line broke and the Serbs retook several kilometres of land north of Kljuc.

Bosnian officers say their casualties pale in comparison to those suffered by the Serbs, but the surgical and intensive care wards at Bihac hospital are filled with young men. Death notices are to be seen everywhere - in the past week two senior officers have been killed - and even the Fifth Corps commander, General Atif Dudakovic, has been wounded. But despite the problems with holding the line, few people fear that a resurgent Serb army will retake the newly captured territories. "The Fifth Corps is the heavenly force, and the Serbs have no chance of taking Bosanska Krupa now," said Vera Suljanovic, who recently moved back to the ruins of her car repair shop.

Refugees expelled by the Serbs and resettled in Kljuc 10 days ago - against their will - are terrified, however, by the prospect of an enemy attack, looking up nervously at the sound of planes overhead and the crump of explosions.

"We are afraid of the Serbs - perhaps they will occupy Kljuc again and kill us all if they find us here," one woman said. "The line is very near ... " said an old man, his voice trailing off.

Suggested Topics
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game