September 16, 1995
Web posted at: 9:45 a.m.EDT (1345 GMT)
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- The Bosnian Serbs are complying with their commitment to move heavy weapons further from Sarajevo -- but just barely, and it may not be enough to stave off further NATO air strikes when the 72-hour bombing pause ends on Sunday.
The United Nations reported that its observers have seen four artillery pieces, three tanks and five mortars on their way out of the 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the besieged city. With about a day to go before the 5 p.m. EDT Sunday deadline, U.N. sources said they were "skeptical" that the Bosnian Serbs will fulfill their commitment.
And if NATO and U.N. officials don't see enough evidence that the Bosnian Serbs are serious about moving those weapons, more NATO air strikes could be on the way.
"If we don't have full and verifiable compliance, the United States will take a very strong position in favor of resuming the air strikes," said Richard Holbrooke, who heads the U.S. negotiating team trying to broker peace in the troubled Balkans. (94k .aiff sound file or 179k .wav sound file)
But Don Kerrick, a member of the negotiating team, said air strikes are NATO's business. "That's not related to our negotiating effort," he said.
The negotiating effort, however, did result in the current halt to NATO's intense bombing of Serb positions outside Sarajevo. Air strikes ceased at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday when Holbrooke announced that the Bosnian Serbs had offered to pull out heavy weapons and allow humanitarian aid into Sarajevo.
NATO will assess the situation on Sunday, at the end of the three-day pause, and make a decision about resumption of the air strikes. If NATO determines the Serbs are in compliance, another 72-hour pause will begin to allow them time to finish the redeployment.
But what NATO and the Bosnian government really want is a complete end to the siege of Sarajevo. That cannot be accomplished as long as any Serbian guns remain outside the city -- and the Serbs are balking at moving all weapons, preferring to leave some smaller weapons in place.
Meanwhile, Holbrooke's negotiations are continuing. Holbrooke briefed the five-nation Contact Group on progress Friday night in Geneva, and flew back to the Yugoslav capital Belgrade Saturday.
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