UN fears Serbian noose tightening around Sarajevo

Yasushi Akashi, the UN envoy to former Yugoslavia, who is meeting the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in Paris tomorrow, said yesterday that the strangulation of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serbs is likely to worsen over the summer. Although tension in Croatia had eased, the "prospects are still quite dark" for Sarajevo, he said.

"It's difficult to see any early break or any early lessening of this gradual tightening of the encirclement of Sarajevo," Mr Akashi said. He added that Lieutenant-General Rupert Smith, the UN commander in Bosnia, met Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, on Tuesday, "and the Serb attitude was very stern".

Eight people were injured by sniper and mortar fire in Sarajevo yesterday. On Monday, Mr Akashi rejected General Smith's request for Nato air strikes in retaliation for Serbian shelling of the city on Sunday, saying it might worsen tension in Croatia. The shells killed 11 people and landed close to the mouth of a tunnel under Sarajevo airport - the only non-UN route for goods into the city. The attack marked a turning-point for the Bosnian Serbs. Until now, they have allowed the tunnel to operate freely.

Intense artillery exchanges have closed the vital Brcko corridor that connects Serbia, northern Bosnia and Serb-held Croatia. Serbs fired at least 1,300 shells and possibly rockets in two spells into the Croat- held Orasje pocket, just north of the corridor, a UN spokesman said. Bosnian Croat forces fired back with 38 rockets, another spokesman said in Zagreb, adding that the shells fired by the Bosnian Serbs were "innumerable" and the situation was "very serious".

A UN officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Franck Verstappen, speaking in Otok, in eastern Croatia, called it the heaviest fighting in the Brcko corridor in six months. The town of Brcko dominates the corridor. So vital is the strip to the Serbs that they call it the "corridor of life." Serbs also shot down a Bosnian army helicopter over Muslim-controlled territory in eastern Bosnia, killing 12 passengers.

The strangulation of Sarajevo has worsened as the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs suffer military reverses. Flights have been suspended for a month, and the Serbs have targeted the only road into the city, a winding track over Mount Igman, which is at the mercy of Serbian fire. The 10-minute drive is a heart-stopping race against gunners in the Serb-held suburb of Ilidza. Now, the Serbs have threatened also to target cars driving into the city across the airport.

The UN is trapped between its mandate, to deliver aid and protect the six "safe areas", and a lack of international will to help the peace- keepers enforce the mandate.

"We need a serious debate on what people expect of us," said Colum Murphy, a UN spokesman, in Sarajevo.

Mr Akashi would not be drawn on the specifics of tomorrow's meeting. But in Sarajevo, Mr Murphy said: "We will ask: 'Will you please clarify your past decisions and present intentions?' "

The five-nation Contact Group, which meets in London tomorrow, is confused over how to proceed in the nine months since the Bosnian Serbs rejected its peace plan. General Smith is known to be concerned about the lack of political leadership. Mr Murphy said the general, who is also going to Paris, will tell the Secretary-General: "If you want me to do something specific, give me the capability."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003