Serbian troops remain on Mt Igman

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The Independent Online
MOUNT IGMAN - A small group of Bosnian Serb soldiers disappears hastily into thick woods on the slopes of Mt Igman outside Sarajevo as a car carrying journalists rounds a bend on the mountain road.

A short distance along the trail, a platoon of Bosnian government troops says it knows all about the Serbian unit that was so anxious to hide itself from view. 'They try to provoke us,' says Jasmin, a fighter from Sarajevo. 'There has been some fighting during the night and they have laid mines on some of the forest trails.'

The Serbs are present on that part of Mt Igman in breach of an agreement under which their leaders promised a complete withdrawal of forces by last Saturday. In Sarajevo, some 15km (10 miles) from the looming peak that commands the western approaches to the besieged city, the UN military spokesman says about 100 Serbian soldiers have remained on Igman after the withdrawal of the main force. The Serbs have told the UN the soldiers are safeguarding a supply route through the area.

On the mountain, French peace- keeping officers explain that most of that group are no more than 300m (330 yards) from the French camp in a clearing near the finishing line for the downhill ski races in the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics. The Serbs have torched most of the hotels, chalets and ski facilities on Igman and nearby Mt Bjelasnica. Everywhere there are the signs of fierce fighting.

The roads now are patrolled by French soldiers in armoured personnel carriers and light tanks.

The Serbian withdrawal was seen as allowing Bosnian peace talks in Geneva to start again after being held up for two weeks because President Alija Izetbegovic said he could not come to the table while the Serbs were on the two mountains. Now, those 100 men, despite UN assurances that they pose no threat, could hold the key to the Geneva talks. Mr Izetbegovic has again threatened to walk away from the conference table if they are not withdrawn.

(Photograph omitted)