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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bosnian Serbs Close in on Gorazde

SARAJEVO -- Bosnian Serb forces were reported to be closing in on the UN-protected Moslem enclave of Gorazde on Tuesday as the United States ruled out using air power to break the siege, at least for the time being.

The French medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres, quoting its team in Gorazde, eastern Bosnia, said Serb forces had broken through Moslem lines and were 3.5 kilometers from the town.

It said Moslem villages on the left bank of the Drina river were on fire and residents were fleeing to take refuge in the town, where UN officials said 52 people have died and nearly 250 wounded in the week-long assault.

In Sarajevo, Bosnian Moslems demonstrated outside the base of the United Nations Protection Force to protest its lack of action to break the siege, as it did in Sarajevo in February using the threat of NATO air strikes.

But in Washington, America's top military officer said the Serb siege of Gorazde was different than that of Sarajevo, and the use of allied air power would not be appropriate to break it.

"I think the conditions were very different" in Sarajevo, General John Shalikashvili said, "and those same conditions might once again come to pass in Gorazde and then I'm sure NATO will re-evaluate its stance."

"But right now it is our judgment that conditions in Gorazde do not lend themselves to the use of air power," the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff told a news conference.

The United Nations plans to send a 1,000-strong peacekeeping battalion to Gorazde later this month, a year after it was declared a UN-protected "safe haven," and UN commander Lieutenant General Sir Michael Rose plans to go there on Wednesday for a first-hand look.

The latest fighting followed a report Monday from Sarajevo radio that Serb forces had broken through the front line at one point. The Bosnian Serb news agency said Tuesday that "defeated" Moslem forces were withdrawing in disarray along a key road.

One Moslem offensive launched from Gorazde had been "smashed."

Bosnian Serb army units had crossed to the right bank of the Drina, Bosnian Serb army chief of staff General Manojlo Milovanovic said.

"I ordered yesterday a counterattack from the direction of Cajnice, as the Moslem forces from Gorazde persisted in trying to link up with their units from Sarajevo," the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug quoted him as saying.

The Serbs have said they have no wish to capture Gorazde