July 21, 1995
1:30 PM EDT
A U.S. Defense Department official says reports that France has agreed to air strikes to counter the Bosnian Serb advance is consistent with everything he has heard.
The official, responding to a report citing a French Defense official, says there "is NO surprise" in reports that France insists on reserving the right to reinforce Gorazde if air strikes do NOT work.
France has always said the air strikes would have to be a component of reinforcing Gorazde. One possible compromise could revolve around timing. That is, the French saying we support air strikes, but if they fail you have to back our plan in the end.
The official could NOT say whether that compromise is acceptable to the United States.
Meanwhile, fighting continues near the Bihac enclave. And the possibility that, yet another, safe area may fall. Four boys were killed by Serb attacks there and Bosnia's prime minister warned that Serb forces might seize the western U.N. safe area while world attention focused on the east.
The recent attack has sent out an alarm to the United Nations. Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic claimed thousands of Croatian Serb troops, including a unit of special forces, had assembled along the enclave's western front.
Bihac, in northwestern Bosnia along the border with Serb-held parts of Croatia, is one of six U.N. "safe areas" along with Gorazde, Zepa, Tuzla, Sarajevo and Srebrenica.
Last week, Srebrenica fell as well as Zepa. Now, the prognosis seems to indicate that nearby Gorazde is next. Bihac is a surprise.
U.N. officials said Krajina Serbs invading from rebel-held parts of Croatia have advanced about three miles along a nine-mile front into the northwest part of Bihac along a key road, putting 1,000 or more inhabitants to flight.
The fall of Bihac to Serbs could dismantle Zagreb's strategy to retake the Krajina Serb "capital" Knin and its hinterland.
Refugees fled on foot or on tractors from the western gateway villages of Sturlic and Trazacka Rastela overrun by Krajina Serb forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
War casualties were pouring into local hospitals.
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