UN brokers accord to silence snipers

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THE SNIPERS who have killed and wounded dozens of people in Sarajevo since the shelling stopped six months should, in theory, be silenced today. The Bosnian government, the Bosnian Serbs and the UN yesterday signed an agreement which calls on both sides to issue orders that 'explicitly forbid sniping activities' in the Sarajevo area. Under the agreement, any person caught sniping is 'subject to criminal prosecution'.

'There is great importance in this small step,' said Nikola Koljevic, the Bosnian Serb Vice- President. 'The meanest kind of war will stop.' Hasan Muratovic, the civilian official who signed on Sarajevo's behalf, added: 'It's a very big event for all citizens of Sarajevo if it is implemented because this is . . . the most known crime in this war.' The UN commander in Bosnia, General Sir Michael Rose, was confident the agreement would stick: 'I think it is in the interests of both sides not to let their civilians be killed by what is in effect a crime against humanity.' He said the UN would set up joint patrols on each side of the line for the 'detection and suppression' of snipers.

The most recent sniping victim, 11-year-old Mirela Placic, was shot dead on Thursday by a Bosnian Serb. Her mother had forbidden her to go near the tramcars, which were suspended last week after being targeted by snipers. But the child was not safe in her own street.

Sporadic gunfire crackled around the city yesterday, but most of the exchanges were concentrated along front lines. Pedestrians ran past exposed intersections along 'Sniper's Alley', but the snipers were relatively quiet, according to French soldiers deployed along the road. A real end to the shooting would bring much relief to residents of the city; for although there is a kind of normality in Sarajevo the snipers are an ever-present threat. There were 686 firing incidents on Saturday, a slight increase indicating the high level of tension.

The Bosnian Serbs have made six attempts to remove heavy weapons from sites controlled by the UN in the past few days, claiming they were needed for defence against government forces grouped north of the city.

Although there is no ceasefire at present - the last truce agreement lapsed last week - the new agreement ought to end gunfire in the city. General Rose said the next step should be the demilitarisation of Sarajevo, adding that both sides were considering the proposal.

However people are still effectively under siege; the Bosnian Serbs closed the only road bringing commercial convoys into the city more than two weeks ago, and the airlift has been suspended frequently because planes have been shot at. The issue was addressed during yesterday's meeting at Sarajevo airport. There was, General Rose said, 'a clear statement by both sides that they would do their utmost to stop shooting at planes'. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is hoping to resume the aid airlift today.