Nato ready to help Bosnia Serbs evacuate Sarajevo


NATO LED forces and the Bosnian Serbs were yesterday putting the finishing touches to a controversial plan to allow the evacuation of thousands of Serbs from Sarajevo suburbs, Nato officials said.

Under the terms of the Dayton peace agreement for Bosnia, Serb military personnel and equipment are now banned from all five areas of Sarajevo to be transferred back to government control by March 19th.

But under the arrangement being agreed by the Serbs and Nato yesterday, Serb army vehicles which will be unarmed and driven by soldiers wearing civilian clothes will be allowed back into four of the five districts to help evacuate civilians.

"The trucks will be controlled and come in and out (of these areas) under Ifor (Implementation Force) control," Lieut Col Mark Rayner, a spokesman for the peacekeepers, said.

The convoys were to have begun yesterday but Lieut Col Rayner said he expected them to start today.

In Sarajevo, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) criticised the Nato plan to assist the Serb evacuation, seen by many as assisting in carving out ethnically "cleansed" zones in Bosnia.

Ifor's commander, Admiral Leighton Smith denied that Ifor, would be assisting in "ethnic cleansing".

Meanwhile, the future of the administration of the divided southern city of Mostar was again plunged into doubt after Mr Safet Orucevic, who resigned as mayor of the Muslim half of the city last week, refused at the weekend to retract his resignation.