Serbs threaten to quit Sarajevo

Peace in Bosnia: The Dayton agreement talks of a united city, but rebels prepare a mass exodus from Muslim control

EMMA DALY

Ilidza, near Sarajevo

Safety guarantees from the Bosnian government have done little to calm the fears of some 50,000 Serbs living in four suburbs of Sarajevo due to return to government rule under the Dayton peace plan. But nor have they inspired much thought of rebellion: the option of flight is favoured over fight in Ilidza, west of the capital.

President Jacques Chirac called in a letter to President Clinton yesterday for guarantees to be given to the Serbs in Sarajevo who are to come under control of the Bosnian Muslim-led government. "It is out of the question to renegotiate the terms of the [Dayton] agreement concerning Sarajevo as the Bosnian Serbs want, but it is absolutely essential that we give the Bosnian Serb population there the guarantees they quite rightly expect," the French President wrote.

Some 3,000 to 4,000 separatist Serbs gathered in the suburb yesterday to demand that the world rewrite the peace deal. "Sarajevo is Serb," they cried. "We will never leave." But despite the banners - "Good fences make good friends" was the strangest - the writing is on the wall, and the people of Ilidza know it.

On Tuesday, President Alija Izetbegovic assured women and children they would be safe under his control, but did not extend the guarantee to their men - and in Ilidza, every man is a soldier. The Serb leadership is stoking such fears, warning of a "second Beirut" if the city is not divided.

Yesterday the Bosnian Foreign Minister, Muhamed Sacirbey, tried again: "All civilians within a united Sarajevo ... will have their safety guaranteed by our government," he said. "We will not engage in trying to find out who has been a soldier and who was not. Of course there will be criminal responsibilities for those who engaged in war crimes."

But who is to make that distinction? "My husband was a soldier for four years," said Sretanka, a clerk at the demonstration. "My safety is guaranteed but not my husband's. How can we live under their authority?" But if it was? "We would say, 'thank you, but no.' "

One of the few to express any hope at all was Mirko Knezevic - perhaps because two of his brothers have lived safely across the line throughout the war. "I think I would stay if there were to be a joint civilian authority and an open city and we could co-operate in all aspects of economic life," he said.

Mr Sacirbey has sought to encourage such thinking, emphasising the huge flow of money the city expects after the war. "What is important is that the people on the other side of the line understand that it is to their benefit to be part of a united Sarajevo," he told reporters. "They have not been sold out as a part of a peace agreement. We want them to be sharing in the benefits of a united Sarajevo because they are a part of Sarajevo."

But talk among the crowd was mostly of exodus, despite the best efforts of the organisers. "The politicians can leave, but we will not," said one speaker, to cheers and applause. Citizens took turns on the platform, flanked by Serb flags and a portrait of St George slaying the dragon (apparently symbolic of Serb suffering). It was a new kind of Bosnian Serb offensive. "These people know that they cannot fight for Sarajevo with arms, but perhaps politically, like this," said one Serb official from headquarters in Pale. "Otherwise they will all leave."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before