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A treacherous message of concern, evil stalks the earth in Sarajevo

July 1993: Not for the first time, Bosnians wondered why the UN soldiers in the city, so experienced in repairing power and water lines, suddenly found themselves unable to help, writes Robert Fisk

Sunday 11 July 2021 00:48
<p>A man carrying jerrycans passes by a UN bulldozer in the streets of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war</p>

A man carrying jerrycans passes by a UN bulldozer in the streets of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war

All day above the low clouds you can hear them, the howl of fighter planes, boldly salving our western consciences in the face of evil. Their engines thunder across the city, almost submerging the sound of Serbian shellfire, sending forth that most treacherous of messages: that the west cares, that aggression cannot continue. Yes, the “no-fly zone” is being enforced by western pilots above Sarajevo, just as the United Nations promised it would be.

Forget for a moment that Sarajevo has never endured a single Serbian air raid. Ignore the sniper fire near the old PTT building. And pretend you can’t hear the shellfire. Imagine, too, that Alija Izetbegovic, in his shell splattered Habsburg palace in the town centre, still believes he can lead a multi-ethnic Bosnian state. And whatever you do, don’t ask who cut off the water, the electricity or the sewerage. Just think of those wonderful men in their flying machines.

In Sarajevo, of course, you can’t do that. Call on Tony Lamb, for example, in his chaotic office deep within the old PTT. He’s been trying for days to bring 100 tons of fuel into the city, enough to keep the bakery and hospital generators running for a week. The fuel is on board a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) convoy out at the airport, but when Lamb tried to drive it into town, Serbs at the checkpoint asked for 25 tons of the fuel. Since extortion long ago acquired its own legitimacy in Bosnia, Lamb had no problem with that. But then the Serbs decided that despite their cut they would not allow the fuel convoy into Sarajevo – which is why it is now back at the airport. This puts a little more pressure on Izetbegovic to sign the latest, most shameful of all the peace agreements, the partition that will finally destroy the dream of a sovereign Bosnian state.

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