September 16, 1995 in Nation/World

Serbs Move Heavy Weapons And Reopen Roads Near Sarajevo

New York Times

The Serbs of Bosnia on Friday took the first steps to lift the siege of Sarajevo, reopening the roads and the airport and giving relief convoys free passage.

They also withdrew a few tanks, howitzers and heavy artillery pieces from the hills surrounding the Bosnian capital.

President Clinton led a chorus of NATO allies and - after a week of intensifying criticism - the Russians in welcoming the brokered agreement, which calls for the Serbs to withdraw their heavy weaponry in exchange for a halt in the NATO bombing campaign.

But while relishing a rare moment of success in Bosnian diplomacy, the president warned of further military action if the Serbs renege.

“Let me emphasize: if the Bosnian Serbs do not comply with their commitments, the air strikes will resume,” he told reporters.

Friday’s self-congratulation was punctured by protests from President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia that the deal, blessed Thursday by the U.S. representative, Richard C. Holbrooke, allowed the Serbs to keep hundreds of their weapons within range of Sarajevo.

In the accord, brokered by Holbrooke, the Serbs agreed to withdraw artillery greater than 100 millimeters, mortars larger than 82 millimeters and all tanks, which U.S. intelligence experts estimated totaled 350 to 400 weapons. The shell that killed 39 people in a Sarajevo market Aug. 28 and precipitated the NATO bombing came from a 120-millimeter gun.

But the agreement allows the Serbs around Sarajevo to retain several hundred smaller mortars and antiaircraft weapons.

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