September 4, 1995 -- 10 a.m. EDT
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- The Bosnian crisis could explode with NATO bombs in just a few hours if the Serbs continue to ignore NATO demands. But former President Jimmy Carter tells CNN there has been some movement in the crisis.
NATO warplanes from carriers at sea and bases in Italy are ready to attack, although the decision to launch further strikes is not expected until after an 11 p.m. deadline placed on the Bosnian Serbs (2100 GMT, 5 p.m. EDT).
Carter said he talked with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Monday morning. In a phone interview with CNN, Carter said, "I have just been informed a few minutes ago by Dr. Radovan Karadzic from Pale that the blue routes around Sarajevo have been reopened to permit complete freedom of movement for United Nations forces and personnel and for non- governmental organizations. I understand that the first convoy went through yesterday afternoon.
"In addition, I've been told that the Bosnian Serb representative is initiating discussions today with his Bosnian government counterpart on reopening the airport of Sarajevo as soon as possible for unrestricted use." He continued, "These [and other steps] have been described to me by Dr. Karadzic as beginning the process of complying fully with the conditions laid down by the United Nations.
"He has indicated that other steps will follow, including the movement of heavy weapons. I'm encouraged by the information that Dr. Karadzic has passed to me. It is consistent with the statements he made in his letter to me on August 28. I believe that Dr. Karadzic realizes that his words will be judged by what happens on the ground (extended quote - 289k AIFF sound)."
Carter stressed that heavy weapons negotiations are crucial. "The holdup on the part of the Bosnian Serbs is that before they completely remove the heavy weapons and leave those positions defenseless, they want some assurance from NATO that those positions will not be attacked form Bosnian government troops," Carter said.
After Carter's disclosures, Serb authorities appeared to be moving quickly to avoid NATO retaliation (Correspondent Peter Arnett - 383k AIFF sound). It is a good sign that Karadzic's statement is in line with earlier information made public about Bosnian Serb military proposals to U.N. leadership.
The text of an early offer made by Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic to French Gen. Bernard Janvier, commander of the U.N. forces, was made public Monday morning. In the documents, which were faxed to Reuters, Mladic:
1. Said the Bosnian Serb Army would not engage in combat operations or attack threats directed toward the safe areas of Sarajevo, Bihac, Tuzla or Gorazde, except in self-defense.
2. Agreed in principle that "heavy armaments of all sides" could be withdrawn from the Sarajevo protected zone under conditions to be agreed upon.
3. Demanded "an immediate and complete cessation of hostilities on the entire territory of former Bosnia- Herzegovina."
4. Said he expected the United Nations to organize a meeting between the commanders in the conflict to discuss provisions of an agreement. In the meantime, freedom of movement would be guaranteed for United Nations protection forces and international humanitarian organizations under the conditions already agreed. Any new routes, such as the road to Sarajevo airport, would be discussed later.
5. Demanded that NATO and Rapid Reaction Force activities cease in Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO is demanding that the Bosnian Serbs withdraw weapons from the Sarajevo Exclusion Zone, allowing complete freedom of movement for U.N. forces and unrestricted use of Sarajevo airport.
--Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, in a letter written to the United Nations leadership
The United Nations rejected Mladic's proposals, insisting instead that he guarantee in writing by this evening that he will comply with all their demands. "Nothing else but full Bosnian Serb compliance will be enough" said a senior NATO official in Brussels. "If NATO countries and the U.N. are not satisfied, then air strikes resume at any moment.
"We want an absolute guarantee that he is willing to withdraw all, all, all of the heavy weapons within Sarajevo to beyond the 20 kilometer exclusion zone," the Brussels official said. "It must be in writing -- a telephone call will not do." He added that NATO and the U.N. will be looking for "hard evidence" of withdrawal and will not accept a symbolic removal of heavy weapons. "It has to be total," the official said.
NATO sources tell CNN that Mladic is being given enough time to radio his field troops to withdraw, but if they do not, the bombing could resume Monday.
The NATO strikes, in retaliation for the shelling of a Sarajevo market, were suspended Friday as NATO evaluated damage to Bosnian Serb targets and attempted to jump-start the peace process. Next came a series of demands: that the Serbs cease attacks on Sarajevo and other safe areas, that they withdraw heavy weapons from the 20 kilometer total exclusion zone around Sarajevo, and that U.N. personnel be allowed complete freedom of movement and have access to the Sarajevo airport. After some posturing, NATO officials then coughed up the Monday deadline.
The United Nations said that at that hour it will begin a
comprehensive assessment of Bosnian Serb compliance (or lack
of it) to the demands. The United Nations and NATO warn that
if the assessment concludes there has been insufficient
compliance, air strikes could begin again immediately. The
weather in Bosnia has been dismal and has raised concerns
that air strikes might not be an option, but officials say
the skies are predicted to clear over the next 24 hours, and
forces are set to swoop into action if necessary.
Comments on U.N. readiness (204k AIFF sound) from Adm. Leighton Smith, NATO Commander
Sunday, in another show of aggression, the United Nations opened roads into Sarajevo -- the "blue routes" to which Carter referred -- effectively daring the Serbs to lash back. They didn't. The United Nations said that's a good step -- but officials stressed this was a U.N. action and not a Bosnian Serb effort to comply with demands. They noted that the Serbs' failure to fire on U.N. forces is "hardly worth mentioning" in terms of an overall effort by the Serbs to meet the U.N. demands.
In other diplomatic news, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke has finished his talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He traveled Monday morning to Greece for talks with the Athens government regarding Bosnia and the issue of Macedonia, the former Yugoslavian region on the border of Greece. Greece refuses to recognize the independent republic under the name of Macedonia, which it considers part of the Greek heritage. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic will visit Turkey on Monday, and U.N. special envoy Yasushi Akashi is in Zagreb, Croatia.
NATO said that it is aware of an Associated Press story quoting a Bosnian Serb farmer as saying he personally captured two downed French fliers and handed them over to Bosnian Serb police. NATO says they have no particular comment on the report except to say that it "sounds believable," but they are still mounting constant missions to search for the fliers. There has been no confirmation so far from Pale that the French pilots are in Bosnian Serb custody. NATO denied Bosnian Serb claims that a pilotless "spy plane" had been downed by Bosnian Serb missiles over the weekend.
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