Tiny Bosnian Enclave Says 'Don't Forget Us' Besieged City May Be a Bargaining Chip

Article excerpt

FOR 90 minutes each day when government buildings, hospitals, and military installations get electricity, the people of Gorazde gather around communal televisions seeking news of the outside world. The pictures they used to see of the beleaguered Bosnian capital showed them that Gorazde was not alone.

But weeks after NATO airstrikes forced Bosnian Serbs to pull back their heavy weapons and allow the United Nations to open roads into Sarajevo, Gorazde residents see pictures of the capital's crowded cafes and shops loaded with produce. The shops in Gorazde are still barren, and the mainly Muslim occupants are still fired on by Bosnian Serb guns.

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has demanded access to the Gorazde pocket as a condition for accepting the American-led peace initiative. Some analysts suspect, however, that the Bosnian government is using this last eastern UN-protected "safe haven" as a bargaining chip that will eventually be traded away to the Serbs as part of the overall peace plan.

"The government had planned to give up Gorazde, but when it was leaked to the press, President Izetbegovic had no choice but to announce that he would never give it up," a Western diplomat says. "Betraying thousands of people in Gorazde would have been politically untenable."

International aid workers say the 60,000 people of Gorazde feel angry and betrayed. "Gorazde is tired of seeing bananas on TV in Sarajevo when their coffee costs {$114 a pound}," says an aid worker who spent the past six weeks in the enclave.

After the eastern enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa were brutally overrun in July, and Bosnian Serb forces stood poised to do the same to Gorazde, international aid workers said panic spread across the enclave. Gorazde's fears were briefly allayed by the London conference at the end of July where massive NATO airstrikes were threatened should Bosnian Serb forces attack it. …

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