UN seeks to revive moribund Bosnia truce

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - Two days after a United Nations field commander in Bosnia pronounced a truce dead on the battlefield, senior UN civilian officials seek to breathe new life into the 'corpse'. They said yesterday they want the much-violated temporary ceasefire among Bosnia's warring parties extended for another month when it expires on 9 July.

The question is: Why? 'There is no peace in Bosnia and no ceasefire, not even a cessation of hostilities here,' Britain's Brigadier Andrew Ridgway told reporters on Tuesday. He commands UN peace-keepers in a sector of central Bosnia that has seen almost continuous heavy fighting since the country- wide ceasefire went into effect on 10 June.

His outspoken comments echoed publicly what many senior peace-keepers have been saying privately for days: there is no ceasefire when hundreds and thousands of mortar and artillery shells are being fired daily.

The civilian side of the UN is now putting a different interpretation - some say a spin - on the situation.

'It (the ceasefire) is not dead and we are not dead,' the UN Special Envoy, Yasushi Akashi, said in Brussels on Wednesday, where he was consulting with Nato.

Then, yesterday morning, the UN announced it expected the ceasefire to be extended. 'We do feel that for the most part they (the combatants) have adhered to the agreement, even though there have been localised areas of conflict,' Claire Grimes of the UN said in Sarajevo. 'We are going for an extension to consolidate the gains made over the first 30 days.'

Observers in Sarajevo believe the UN may already have secured agreement from both parties to extend the agreement. Scores of ceasefires have been signed and ignored in the course of 27 months of war, but the 8 June Geneva agreement was intended to be the start of a comprehensive peace agreement being drafted by the United States, Russia and major European powers.

Instead, it signalled the start of a government offensive in central Bosnia that has driven thousands of Serb civilians from their homes.

(Photograph omitted)