Bosnia: UN troops make progress on new lifeline to Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
PHASE ONE of the UN's operation 'Lifeline' to open the main road to Sarajevo and central Bosnia from the Adriatic coast was reported to be 'going well' last night, with one stretch of road through Serb-controlled territory into Sarajevo declared 'passable'. But the majority of the route is still closed by fighting between Muslims and Croats further south.

UN sources believed that once passage through the Serb-controlled area was secured, the Muslim-Croat fighting would not be too much of a problem. It is in the Muslims' interest to allow supplies to Sarajevo and in the Croats' to see an end to the fighting, as the Muslims have the upper hand.

French UN troops based in Sarajevo yesterday continued repairing roads from the city north to Visoko and south-west to Hadzici. The road to Hadzici was passable again and the French had made contact with Spanish troops responsible for the Mostar road. The road north to Visoko was still not cleared yesterday afternoon.

The roads are pockmarked with mortar craters, but a more serious problem is deterioration due to lack of use. Phase two will involve setting up UN checkpoints at the ends of the route, with other checkpoints or way stations where the road crosses confrontation lines set up later.

Traffic from the Adriatic coast and the UN depot at Metkovic seldom goes through Mostar, and the road north of Mostar to Jablanica was yesterday described as 'not a nice place to be'. This section includes the Bijela bridge, which needs to be approached from the south to begin repairing the 77m broken span. From Konjic up to Sarajevo, the road appears to be in fairly good condition.

From Sarajevo, 'Operation Lifeline' envisages a clear route north to Visoko, then diverging to Tuzla and Zenica. This route is adequate to sustain central Bosnia through the winter. Traffic along the second route into central Bosnia, the mountain road from Tomislavgrad, has also been disrupted by Muslim-Croat fighting, especially around Gornji Vakuf. The Royal Engineers continue to improve the mountain road and recently filled in a crater near Zenica that was 20m wide and 3m deep.

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