Hundreds of cold and weary refugees from Sarajevo approached the Croatian coast Thursday after nearly three days on the road in rickety buses.
Bosnia’s three warring sides, meanwhile, maneuvered on the battlefield and at the political level for positions of strength when peace talks reconvene next month. Fierce fighting was reported in a several Bosnian cities.
Sixteen packed buses carrying 757 refugees, primarily women, children and elderly, crossed into Croatia after about seven hours of document checks, U.N. officials and Croatian Radio said.
The refugees, half of whom are Muslim, left Sarajevo on Tuesday after months of delays. They spent their first night in the Serb-held Sarajevo suburb of Lukavica and their second night near Croat-held Stolac, in southern Bosnia.
The bus convoy was part of a private evacuation effort planned nearly a year ago and assisted by the United Nations and the Red Cross.
The refugees were to sleep in a sports hall in the Adriatic port of Split. Mattresses, blankets and food awaited them, said Alemka Lisinski, spokeswoman in Zagreb, Croatia, for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Some will stay in Croatia and others will go on to other countries.
About 200,000 people have been killed in the Bosnian war, which began in April, 1992, when Serbs rebelled against a Muslim-Croatian decision to secede from Yugoslavia, which now includes only Serbia and tiny Montenegro.
On Thursday, a French U.N. soldier was seriously wounded by a Serbian sniper near Pale as he was repairing a vehicle, said squadron leader David Fillingham at U.N. headquarters in Kiseljak.