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Serbs' Moves Belie Vow to Leave Peaks

August 11, 1993| From Times Wire Services

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Hundreds of well-armed Bosnian Serb fighters, manning tanks and packed into trucks, headed toward two strategic peaks near Sarajevo on Tuesday in a troop rotation that called into question Serbian assertions that the troops are withdrawing from the area.

U.N. officers who witnessed the rotation said they believe the Serbs have no intention of leaving either Mt. Bjelasnica or Mt. Igman, both important positions south of Sarajevo where Serbian forces have made significant gains.

The apparent unwillingness of Serbian forces to cede the area, despite declarations of such intent reiterated Tuesday by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, is likely to complicate U.N. efforts to restart stalled peace talks in Geneva, which have been in recess since last week.

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic has said he will not return to the negotiating table unless Serbian forces leave both Igman and Bjelasnica.

U.N. officials have been working closely with the Serbs to ensure that they withdraw from the strategic areas.

"This is a basic troop rotation," said one U.N. officer who witnessed the Serbian movements Tuesday. "This is definitely not a withdrawal."

The comments by the officers clashed with statements by the command unit of the U.N. Protection Force that the Serbs had actually begun pulling back.

The spokesman for French troops here said that, starting Tuesday morning, Serbs on Mt. Igman had taken back positions they had begun to retreat from earlier.

"We were left with nothing," he said. "Yesterday the Serbs were the 'nice guys' and today they're not. They've retaken their positions and told us to wait."

By the end of day Tuesday, it seemed that the only Serbian position that had been vacated at least for now was Bjelasnica, which overlooks Igman.

Meanwhile, 5-year-old mortar attack victim Irma Hadzimuratovic, who was evacuated from a Sarajevo hospital Monday after a worldwide outcry over her fate, was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after surgery in London but had developed meningitis.

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