UN resumes aid airlift to Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
BELGRADE - The airlift of United Nations humanitarian aid to Sarajevo was back in full swing yesterday, after the Bosnian authorities formally lifted a ban on aid, imposed to draw attention to the plight of Muslim enclaves in the east, writes Marcus Tanner.

After switching the base for aid flights from Zagreb to the Italian airbase of Falconara-Alcona on the Adriatic coast, the first three planes took off for Sarajevo. At the same time, aid workers in Sarajevo began distributing thousands of tons of food which had piled up in UN warehouses.

Also in Sarajevo, General Philippe Morillon, commander of UN peace-keepers in Bosnia, announced he will resume talks with the military commanders of all three ethnic communities in Bosnia tomorrow on lifting the 11-month-long Serbian siege of the city. A Bosnian Serb General, Milan Gvero, said he was ready to attend the talks, but rejected the notion that Sarajevo was under a Serbian siege.

In eastern Bosnia, UN aid chiefs agreed to delay for a day a convoy of food trucks bound for the besieged Muslim town of Gorazde. Bosnian Serb forces said they would not permit the convoy to cross Serbian-held territory until they had finished reburying 38 Serbs, discovered in a mass grave in the village of Kamenica on the Bosnian-Serbian border. The grave was uncovered at the weekend after Serbs overran the tiny Muslim enclave.

But UN aid chiefs said they were hopeful a convoy destined for Gorazde's 70,000 Muslims would roll today. At the weekend Serbs allowed a 10-truck food convoy to reach the nearby Muslim village of Zepa - the first convoy they had let through eastern Bosnia in three weeks.

'We take the arrival of a convoy in Zepa as a sign of the willingness of the Bosnian Serbs to co-operate,' said Lyndall Sachs, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Belgrade.

The Bosnian Serb chief, Radovan Karadzic, declined to attend in person a fresh round of peace talks on the republic's future at UN headquarters in New York. Apparently determined to exact the maximum political benefit from the discovery of the mass grave in Kamenica, Mr Karadzic said the discovery of the bodies cast doubt on the worth of UN-brokered peace negotiations.

Mr Karadzic said he was sending Nikola Koljevic, a member of the Bosnian Serb leadership. During the last round of talks in New York Mr Karadzic had an uncomfortable time: the US forbade him to move further than 10 blocks from UN headquarters.