Bosnian Serbs in Pale feel stung by misunderstanding


PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- As NATO warplanes wheeled and turned above the houses and military sites strung along this mountain valley where Bosnian Serbs have made their capital, Savica Kovac simply continued to prepare coffee for her husband.

When what appeared to be a surface-to-air missile rose to attack the jets yesterday, Mrs. Kovac smiled and clenched her hand into a fist.

While the planes escaped, many in this small town seemed eager to resist the demands made by Western powers and perplexed about why the rest of the world wants to impose its will on the Bosnian Serbs.

Faced with the threat that bombing would resume, the customers at Sorica Petrovic's small store suggested their fate was in the hands of foreign powers who, for "mysterious reasons," have decided they are bad and must be defeated.

"We will pay with our blood because the West has chosen to take the side of the Muslims," said Alexandra Petra, referring to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its Muslim-led government.

What the United Nations and NATO present as reasonable conditions for safeguarding the nearly 500,000 civilians who live in the parts of Bosnia declared "safe areas," the women drinking coffee at the Petrovic family store see as unconditional support for their enemies.

"If our army removes its artillery from Sarajevo, then the Muslims will attack our soldiers. It is the artillery that protects them," said Radmila Gazivoda.

Mrs. Petra said: "We Serbs are being killed, too, even our civilians. The Muslims use the protection of United Nations to shell us from those protected areas, and now they have NATO to help them even more."

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