Mik Magnusson, a spokesman for the United Nations peace- keeping forces in Sarajevo, said the fighting yesterday was among the worst the city had seen, with 'heavy mortar and artillery exchanges in many areas, especially in the western and north-western districts'.
His statement came as Muslim- led forces claimed further advances in their offensive to break the Serb siege of Sarajevo. A district commander, Mustafa Hajrulahovic, claimed that government forces had 'taken up positions from which we can begin to unblock Sarajevo'. But it appeared they were still too short of weapons to accomplish that goal. Kamel Muftic, the leader of the Bosnian cabinet, said Bosnian forces were close to taking Ilidza, in western Sarajevo.
The Bosnian side has made no secret of the fact that it has taken military initiatives in recent days, announcing advances on several different fronts. Such statements highlight the delicate position of the UN peacekeepers, who are mandated to ensure food supplies reach the city, but only once an effective ceasefire has come into force.
The UN has a policy of not condemning those responsible for ceasefire violations, and says it is often incapable of identifying the guilty party. But the Bosnians have criticised such neutrality, arguing that the UN is treating 'the aggressor and the defender' on the same basis.
Sarajevo airport, held by UN forces, was closed down three times on Tuesday, with only six planes able to land instead of the usual daily 20 flights, after both the airport and the UN forces' base, Camp Beaver, were hit by shells, Mr Magnusson said. The UN decided on Tuesday to suspend operations of peacekeeping forces around the airport for 72 hours.