CNN Balkan Conflict News

Muslims protest 'betrayal' of Bosnia

Bosnian Serbs begin to withdraw big guns

September 16, 1995
Web posted at: 7:50 p.m. EDT (2350 GMT)

From Correspondent Peter Arnett

[Muslim protestors] NEW YORK and SEMISOVAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Thousands of Muslims held a rally outside the United Nations headquarters in New York Saturday to protest what they call the "betrayal" of Bosnia. They were demonstrating against the U.N. arms embargo against the Bosnian government and the division of territory under a U.S.-sponsored peace plan.

Inside the U.N. building, officials met Saturday to assess the military and diplomatic situation in the Balkans. U.N. observers say that the Bosnian Serbs have yet to move most of their heavy weapons from Sarajevo. They have until Sunday night to do so. That's when a three-day pause in NATO air strikes is scheduled to end.

But in Semisovac, Bosnia-Herzegovina, heavy guns from both sides of besieged Sarajevo were being hauled away toward the edge of the exclusion zone Saturday, as the Bosnian Serbs seemed to be speeding up their promised weapons withdrawal.

[Serb tank] About two dozen tanks, heavy guns and other armaments were driven past United Nations observers in two locations in the late afternoon as international journalists watched.

The previous day's withdrawal was criticized by the United Nations and NATO as being inadequate and not living up to the agreement signed by the Serbs a few days earlier.

The Serbs have been given three days to make good on their promise and prove to the world that they are finally withdrawing their big guns. Otherwise, they face the possibility of more NATO air strikes.

After a second weapons group drove by on the Sarajevo Zenica road north of Sarajevo, a French U.N. officer expressed cautious optimism. "It's a beginning, a small beginning," said Capt. Jacques Allavenya, who was responsible for keeping count of the vehicles. "But a symbolic beginning, I think. Because we have all types of guns before us."

But a senior U.N. French officer was non-committal about the parade of passing Serb military power. Asked if he felt the withdrawal was now in full swing, Gen. Jean Renee Bachere replied, "I never feel. I bring the facts in, then we study this problem, then we give conclusion."

The first U.N. observation point was above Sarajevo on the Pale road. Then the U.N. observers and the press, invited to witness the withdrawal, were driven from the Lukavica side of Sarajevo through the newly-opened airport to the western side of the city through U.N. checkpoints. It's a rarely-used route, and a U.N. indication of the reduced state of tension in the city and its environs.

[Convoy] Serb weapons, seen moving Saturday, included heavy artillery pieces and mountain guns, tanks and a multiple rocket launcher.

But the Serbs have far more heavy weapons still in place in the hills surrounding Sarajevo than they have leaving on the roads, and a limited time to prove to the international community that they mean what they say and that all will soon be withdrawn.

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