The West’s growing military fleet off the coast of Croatia had no visible effect on Bosnian Serbs on Wednesday as no progress was reported in the effort to free more than 370 United Nations peacekeepers held hostage in Bosnia.
U.N. officials in Zagreb said there had been no contact between the two sides because Bosnian Serb officials did not return telephone messages left by U.N. officials.
“We tried to contact them, but could not,” said U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko. “Since they have not made any attempt to contact us, we have no intention to try again.”
Officials also said Bosnian Serbs had made off with 16 armored personnel carriers and six tanks from the U.N. peacekeepers and taken hundreds of U.N. uniforms and helmets.
The equipment was being taken to Bosnian Serb headquarters in Pale, said U.N. spokesman Christopher Gunnes. U.N. officials said at least one of the stolen trucks had been used in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Lt. Col. Gary Coward, a U.N. military officer in Sarajevo, said new security procedures had been put in place to prevent Bosnian Serbs from posing as U.N. personnel and conducting surveillance inside Sarajevo.
“We are taking extra precautionary measures to stop possible infiltrations,” he said. The identification numbers of all the stolen vehicles have been given to guards at all U.N. checkpoints and gates and also to the Bosnian government, he said.
Heavy fighting was reported Wednesday in Sarajevo and in the eastern enclave of Gorazde. The Sarajevo battle consisted of heavy artillery fire that started Wednesday morning and lasted for nearly one hour.
The Sarajevo battle between Bosnian government forces and rebel Bosnian Serb troops took place within a widely ignored “heavy weapons exclusion zone.”
The Gorazde battle, also in a U.N.declared “safe area,” was fought over a stretch of land on the east side of the Drina River. The fighting forced British and Ukrainian peacekeepers to seek cover, U.N. officials reported.
The U.N. peacekeepers have abandoned all but one station in Gorazde, and on Wednesday that post was fired on.
A French aircraft carrier took position off the Adriatic coast less than 120 miles southwest of Sarajevo. The Dutch and Czech governments planned to send reinforcements of about 100 troops each. Two thousand U.S. Marines also were deployed to the region.