Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Serbs Move from Mt. Igman, but Motive Is Questioned

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Serbs Move from Mt. Igman, but Motive Is Questioned

Article excerpt

WITH the Geneva peace talks and possible NATO airstrikes hanging in the balance, Serb forces appeared yesterday to be moving troops and heavy military equipment from Mt. Igman, a strategic peak overlooking Sarajevo, according to UN sources in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But it remained unclear whether the forces were withdrawing from their positions above the besieged capital, as promised, or only attempting to ease the threat of Western retaliation.

The consensus among diplomats in Belgrade is that the threat of airstrikes has motivated the Bosnian Serbs but that pressure has to be kept up.

"We have seen before that the Bosnian Serbs responded to the threats of outside military intervention - but they did just enough for the threat to go away. This time we must not let that happen," one diplomat says.

The flurry of activity around Sarajevo has acquired an air of urgency. The peace talks in Geneva between the warring Muslim, Croat, and Serb factions have been postponed until the Serbs pull back from Mt. Igman. If they do not, NATO is prepared to launch airstrikes against their positions.

The commander of the UN troops in Bosnia, Belgian Gen. Francis Briquemont, said yesterday that a French battalion on Mt. Igman denied reports suggesting that the Bosnian Serbs were replacing tired troops with fresh reinforcements rather than withdrawing.

But some diplomats and UN officials are publicly concerned that the Bosnian Serbs could be engaged in an elaborate attempt to avert airstrikes.

"It is quite clear that they do not want to give up Mt. Igman, which they so recently took from the Muslims," a diplomat here says. He argues that the Bosnian Serbs must be pressured to relinquish the mountain.

The Serbs had earlier withdrawn from a second, less vital mountain, Mt. Bjelasnica. But they had said they would not hand over Mt. Igman until there were sufficient UN troops on the ground to ensure no Muslim counteroffensive. Diplomats here say that, in making that demand, the Bosnian Serbs have managed not only to retain their gains but also to create a "buffer zone" on the southern approaches to Sarajevo.

THE Bosnian Serb offensive to claim the two mountain tops was not just to choke off a crucial Muslim supply route into Sarajevo. …

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