Bosnian Serbs remained defiant in the face of renewed NATO airstrikes Wednesday, but adverse weather for a second straight day blunted the full force of the U.S.-led offensive.
Since the resumption of attacks Tuesday, NATO planes have targeted ammunition depots, repair facilities and communications command-and-control nodes, according to Adm. Leighton Smith, chief of NATO’s southern command in Naples, Italy.
At a news conference, Smith showed video of a direct hit on the Mt. Jahorina radar complex by a 1,000-pound laser-guided bomb. The complex, a former Yugoslav National Army installation near Pale, had enabled the Serbs to maintain a sophisticated air defense system.
Smith acknowledged that NATO planes have been largely ineffective against Serb artillery dug in around Sarajevo.
“They are extremely difficult targets to find. I don’t think it’s profitable to go after onesies and twosies - that is, trying to take out a small mortar or a piece of artillery buried in the side of a hill,” he said.
“What you try to do is go in back of that and try to strike the military essential support structure that provides the things that go to that gun to make it work, and that’s basically what we’re doing,” Smith said.
NATO officials said the attacks would continue until the Serbs comply with all U.N. demands. These include an immediate end to attacks on Sarajevo and other U.N. “safe areas,” a withdrawal of heavy weapons from around Sarajevo, complete freedom of movement for aid workers and U.N. personnel, and the reopening of Sarajevo’s airport.
“I don’t know how long it will take, but I can assure you (the attacks) will continue as long as necessary,” Smith said.
Thus far, Gen. Ratko Mladic, the rebel Serb military commander, has shown no sign of pulling back his guns from around Sarajevo. But Serb civilian leaders have sent a flurry of mixed signals.
The last official contact was a telephone conversation Tuesday in which Nikola Koljevic, the Bosnian Serb vice president, told Yasushi Akashi, the senior U.N. envoy for the former Yugoslavia, that the Serbs were prepared to meet demands.
“But as the conversation proceeds it becomes rather more amorphous: Where is Gen. Mladic? The telephones are down, he’s traveling, orders have been issued but apparently they have not been carried out,” said U.N. spokesman Phil Arnold.
“We want to accept the intent of the Bosnian Serb leadership, but the only way we can do that is by seeing activity on the ground,” Arnold said.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has not spoken directly with U.N. officials, but he spoke to reporters Wednesday.
“We have opened the city of Sarajevo, and we are prepared to open the Sarajevo airport,” Karadzic said. “NATO has done us terrible damage, so please, we have had enough bombing.”