Diplomacy takes off as need for air attacks fades

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The Independent Online
THE United Nations yesterday confirmed the Bosnian Serb army (BSA) had withdrawn all its forces 3km from the centre of Gorazde and the vast majority of its heavy weapons from a 20km exclusion zone around the devastated town, thus escaping the threat of Nato air strikes.' It is quiet in Gorazde,' said a UN official.

However, Nato warned the Serbs it is still ready to bomb if any weapons are found in the Gorazde zone - and that the ultimatum against attacks extends to the five other UN 'safe areas', Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zepa, Srebrenica and Bihac. An alliance spokesman emphasised that 'the ultimatum remains in force and (Nato) will continue to monitor it with the utmost vigilance'.

The international community is now concentrating on the diplomatic front, where the United States and Russia are working in harness for the first time. 'There is a positive momentum now after the crisis around Gorazde and it is vital that we make use of it to work for a peaceful solution urgently,' said Andrei Kozyrev, the Russian Foreign Minister. He and his French counterpart, Alain Juppe, said they hoped foreign ministers from the big powers involved in the new 'contact group' on Bosnia - Washington, Moscow, London, Paris and Bonn - would meet as early as next week.

The people of Gorazde ventured on to the streets of the shattered town yesterday to collect food from humanitarian agencies and water from the river Drina. On Sunday, the retreating Serbian forces blew up the town's water treatment plant. The International Committee of the Red Cross has sent sanitation equipment and engineers to Gorazde.

The UN commander in Bosnia, Lt-General Sir Michael Rose, has accused Muslim forces in Gorazde of running away from a Serb attack and leaving the UN to clear up the mess.

On a visit to the eastern Bosnian Muslim enclave, he made clear on a United Nations videotape released in Sarajevo that he was not impressed with the military capabilities of the defenders of Gorazde.

'They think we should be fighting their wars for them,' he said. 'They basically turned and ran and left us to pick up the bits. They weren't that interested.'

Britain yesterday opened a one- man embassy under Robert Barnett, 39, in Sarajevo.