NATO and the United Nations gave Bosnian Serbs another 72 hours Sunday to complete the withdrawal of heavy weapons around Sarajevo, judging their pullout efforts over the past three days as “substantial.”
NATO had set a deadline of 10 p.m. Sunday night (1 p.m. PDT) for the Serbs to show they were complying with a demand to pull the weapons out of range of the city or face a renewal of the 16-day bombing campaign suspended Thursday.
The Serbs also continued to lose territory in the western part of the country.
The mostly Muslim Bosnian army Sunday reportedly conquered the towns of Prijedor and Sanski Most, advancing on Banja Luka.
Refugees fled toward Banja Luka, the largest and most important Bosnian Serb-held city, where U.N. officials estimate that up to 90,000 Serb civilians were subsisting on food they brought with them.
In a statement released in Zagreb, the Croatian capital, French Lt. Gen. Bernard Janvier, the U.N. commander for the Balkans, said he and NATO southern commander U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith “judged that the Serbs have shown initial compliance” with the demand to withdraw weapons from around Sarajevo. “Therefore, we have agreed that the suspension of airstrikes be extended for another 72 hours.”
In Washington, White House spokesman David T. Johnson said President Clinton had been briefed on the movement of weapons out of Sarajevo and agreed the bombing pause “is the correct course.”
Clinton said the Serbs had removed “a significant number … approaching 50 percent,” by Sunday’s deadline, according to Johnson.
“The president underlined our expectation of full compliance” by the Bosnian Serbs to move all heavy weapons out of the 12-mile “exclusion zone” by Wednesday at 1 p.m. PDT, the end of the 72-hour period, Johnson said.