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The clock is ticking for Bosnian Serbs to move heavy weapons

September 15, 1995
Web posted at: 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The bombing has halted, but NATO air patrols continue over Sarajevo, monitoring the movement of Bosnian Serb troops laying siege to the city. As the sun set over the Balkans Friday evening, there only limited signs that Bosnian Serbs were starting to comply with an agreement to move heavy weapons beyond the 20-kilometer exclusion zone.

And NATO officials -- with the blessings of President Clinton -- promised that the bombing would resume if the Bosnian Serbs did not hold up their end of the deal by 5 p.m. EDT Sunday -- the end of a 72-hour pause in the air strikes.

And the Bosnian government was still not happy with the process thus far -- it wants a complete withdrawal of all weapons, and a lifting of the siege. And it wants NATO air strikes to continue until those two actions are taken.

Still, there are promising signs. For the first time since April, an airplane landed at Sarajevo airport. The French C- 130 carried a "symbolic" cargo -- three tons of wheat for the relief of Sarajevo.

And a convoy of supplies set out from Kiseljak, on its way to Sarajevo -- the first such delivery since August 28, when deliveries were halted as NATO air strikes began pounding Bosnian Serb position outside the city.

But as it currently stands, Thursday's agreement to reopen roads and the airport applies only to relief efforts. The Bosnian civilian population will not be allowed to pass.

On Friday, Clinton, while warning that air strikes could be resumed if the Bosnian Serbs fail to hold up their end of the agreement, called the latest developments a significant step forward. But a true peace agreement, he said, is up to the parties involved in the conflict. (128k .aiff sound file or 128k .wav sound file)

"I think there's good possibility (of a peace agreement) if the parties themselves wish to do it," the Clinton said.

Holbrooke & Izebegovic

"A lot of work remains to be done," he said, "but we are absolutely determined to press forward, to reach a settlement to this conflict, not on the battlefield, but at the negotiating table." (196k .aiff sound file or 391k .wav sound file)

Meanwhile, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke met with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic in Mostar, and later went to Geneva to meet members of the five-nation Contact Group.

refugees

And elsewhere in Bosnia, Bosnian Serbs are fleeing ahead of the Bosnian army and its Croat allies. Bosnian Serb defenders abandoned seven towns on Friday. Relief workers say that some 90,000 Serbs are fleeing their homes, headed for Banja Luka, one of the few remaining Serb strongholds in the area.

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