Sarajevo Serbs put case to Bildt

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Senior Serb officials desperate to rewrite the Dayton peace plan yesterday visited the centre of Sarajevo for the first meeting of the civilian commission, to determine the future of the city, once it is united. The meeting was constructive, but in the five suburbs due to revert to government rule next month, Serbs burned front-line bunkers and prepared to move out.

Guarded by French Nato troops, Maksim Stanisic and two colleagues from Ilidza and Grbavica, two of the affected areas, travelled to the heart of government- held Sarajevo for the meeting chaired by Carl Bildt, head of the international civilian mission to rebuild Bosnia.

Asked if he would tell Serbs to remain in their suburbs Mr Stanisic replied: "It will depend on these talks a lot. We have got a lot of problems to solve. Heavy fighting has occurred here. Time is needed as well as solutions to a lot of problems in order to have people feel safe and to have a possibility for them to choose, to decide freely, will they stay or go."

Mr Bildt said the discussions did not address in detail Serb demands for a revision of the Dayton peace plan, which would in effect keep the city divided. "The way I interpret the feelings among the Serbs living there is that a lot of them would like to stay ... but a lot fear they cannot." He welcomed the decision to grant an amnesty to all save war criminals, a proposal derided by many Serbs as meaningless.

One group of Serbs, loading a lorry prior to leaving their homes in the suburb of Vogosca, laughed when asked about the amnesty. "We don't trust [President Alija] Izetbegovic," said Mile, a policeman. "They killed our children and bombed our houses and now they want to give us amnesty? The only thing we trust is a divided Bosnia."

The hills marking the front line east of the road to Vogosca were dotted with columns of smoke and spurts of flame from bunkers set ablaze by the Serbs. But the city was calm after the shock on Tuesday night of a rocket attack on a tram that killed one woman. French I-For troops found the launcher used to fire the rocket from a flat in Grbavica, a spot made notorious by Serb snipers.