SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Two people died as shells slammed into a Sarajevo marketplace Thursday, a day before a cease-fire brokered by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was due to take effect.
The shelling occurred an hour before the U.N.'s special envoy, Yasushi Akashi, arrived in Sarajevo for talks on the cease-fire and ensuing negotiations between the Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb separatist leaders.
Seven people were injured in the market shelling. Another person was killed and five more were wounded in shelling of the northwest town of Bihac, a U.N.-declared "safe area."
The violence underscored the difficulty facing any cease-fire in the 32-month-old war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and served as a reminder that many previous efforts to end the fighting have failed.
"It is a bad sign for the cease-fire," Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic said of the shelling. "We are very disappointed. Nevertheless, we are pushing for a cease-fire, and we hope we get a cease-fire."
A new truce is scheduled to go into effect at noon today, and the United Nations is trying to start talks between the Bosnian government and its Serbian foes on a longer truce.
Akashi traveled to Bosnian Serb headquarters in Pale, a village 12 miles southeast of Sarajevo, after talks with the Bosnian government. He returned to Sarajevo, saying there still are a few issues to be resolved before a cease-fire agreement can be signed.
The problems appeared to focus on U.N. monitoring of the cease-fire, and Akashi said he hopes to have them resolved and an agreement signed today.
Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic said he had issued orders for his men to cease fire today even if Muslim troops do not withdraw from the strategic Mt. Igman in time for signing a truce accord.
"We do not make it a precondition for the start of the cease-fire," Karadzic told reporters after meeting Akashi.
Referring to the Muslim withdrawal from Mt. Igman, Karadzic added: "We understand the withdrawal of Muslim troops should be completed by tomorrow noon, but if it is technically difficult we will wait one or two days."
U.N. officials did not say who was to blame for Thursday's market shelling, but the site is just below Serbian-held Mt. Trebevic. Bosnian Serbs denied firing the projectiles. In a statement, the Bosnian Serb military accused the Muslim-led government of the attack, claiming that it wanted to influence public opinion and sabotage peace talks.