September 18, 1995
Web Posted at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT)
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
BANJA LUKA and SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- NATO may have granted the Bosnian Serbs a temporary reprieve from air strikes, but war continues to wrack the former Yugoslavia. And, worried that a sweeping Bosnian government- Croat offensive aimed at the Serb stronghold of Banja Luka will derail the peace process, both U.N. and U.S. leaders are calling for peace.
Under a deal brokered by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, NATO has given the Bosnian Serbs until Wednesday to move heavy artillery out of the 20-kilometer exclusion zone surrounding Sarajevo. According to U.N. sources, the Serbs appear to be fulfilling their end of the bargain. Perched at observation posts along the zone's perimeter, U.N. troops counted guns and tanks as they made their way out of the hills around the city. In another positive step, crucial transportation links, such as the airport road, have been reopened.
With Bosnian Serb compliance apparently under way, some officials are turning increased attention to the alliance between the predominantly Muslim Bosnian government and Croats. Their combined forces are punching out gains against Serbs in northern Bosnia. Sources tell CNN that the Clinton administration is growing frustrated with the Bosnian government's refusal to stop the offensive.
"We have been talking hard, but can't convince them to stop," one source said.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry stressed that the international community is concerned about any fighting in Bosnia, and the United States and other countries are urging all parties to use restraint and not take advantage of the changing situation on the ground. Speaking from Sarajevo, U.N. spokesman Chris Gunnes echoed that call for restraint.
Clinton officials denied charges that the United States, NATO, and the United Nations are looking the other way as the alliance advances on Banja Luka.
In recent days, the powerful offensive has reduced Serb holdings in the country from about 70 percent to 55 percent, a figure nearing the 49 percent agreed to in a framework accord for future negotiations.
Under pressure to hold off, especially on Banja Luka, the Bosnian government apparently has offered to negotiate. "The Bosnian government is prepared to engage in political dialogue with responsible leaders of the Banja Luka region to allow the current population to stay where they are and not to have Banja Luka turn into a battleground," said Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirby.
Tens of thousands of Serb civilians have fled the Bosnian- Croat advance, a situation that U.N. relief officials describe as "traumatic and critical." But as for dialogue, it's not clear whether there are actually any Serb politicians to talk to in Banja Luka.
According to a Clinton administration official, the Bosnian and Croatian forces will be "within artillery view" of Banja Luka by Monday night or Tuesday morning, local time.
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