UN commander holds talks with Bosnian warlords

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The Independent Online
GENERAL Satish Nambiar, the commander of United Nations forces in Yugoslavia, visited the devastated Bosnian capital yesterday for talks with warring leaders aimed at shoring up the fragile UN hold over Sarajevo airport.

After meeting peacekeepers from the Canadian battalion patrolling the airport, General Nambiar held separate talks with Bosnian and Serbian leaders over securing a UN-controlled corridor leading from the airport into the besieged city.

General Nambiar announced that 'a corridor of sorts' into Sarajevo has now been set up. 'It is the best that we can do in the circumstances,' he added. He said the main problem was the refusal of the rival militia leaders to abide by a ceasefire and remove their heavy artillery several miles from the airport.

Under the so-called 'airport agreement', all heavy artillery must be removed from the vicinity of the city in order to allow the UN to transport desperately needed aid in safety from the airport to Sarajevo's trapped 300,000 inhabitants.

Against a background of constant gunfire in the surrounding hills, several planes carrying relief supplies have been touching down in Sarajevo airport each day, bringing hope of succour to the capital's desperate population.

During the weekend, the UN commander in Sarajevo, General Lewis MacKenzie, said all humanitarian flights into Sarajevo could be stopped if peacekeepers patrolling the airport came under fire. But fighting around the airport is far from letting up. The fiercest battles range around the suburb of Dobrinja, a large housing estate located only 100 yards from the airport tarmac. Here, Serbian and Bosnian militias vying for control fight daily street battles. The estate is one of the most strategic points around the Bosnian capital, and its capture by one side or the other could determine the outcome of the war.

The resolutely even-handed stance adopted by the UN forces in the city has won the peacekeepers no friends on either side. The Serbians fear that allowing mercy mission flights into Sarajevo will forever doom their hopes of capturing the Bosnian capital. But Bosnian leaders believe the UN takeover of the airport may have forestalled any chance of foreign armed intervention in Bosnia.

Leaders of a Croatian-held area of Bosnia-Herzegovina have taken a major step towards setting up an autonomous region, complete with its own government, schools and media, Reuter reports.

The area, called Herceg-Bosna by Croats, cuts down the middle of Bosnia-Herzegovina and has its main part in the mountains of Western Herzegovina, the home of radical Croatian nationalism.

Officials said the move was made on Friday at a meeting of the presidency of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna in the town of Grude near the Croatian border.