Fighting rages as peace talks open

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The Independent Online
FIERCE fighting continued in Sarajevo yesterday on the eve of the crucial London conference on Yugoslavia, by far the most ambitious set of talks so far. After more than 90 people died in Sarajevo on Monday, there were further mortar attacks yesterday. Then a 48- hour curfew was declared.

Even before the conference had begun, the arrangements were thrown into some disarray. Lord Carrington, chairman of the European Community peace conference on Yugoslavia, unexpectedly announced his resignation, after persistent criticism that his diplomatic efforts had run into the sand.

This week's conference will pave the way for a new, and perhaps more active, form of pressure diplomacy. It is expected that a standing committee on Yugoslavia under the joint stewardship of the UN and the EC will emerge.

It was understood last night that Lord Owen, former foreign secretary and former leader of the Social Democrats, was the likely successor to Lord Carrington, though this was yet to be approved by European Community foreign ministers, who were meeting for dinner.

Cyrus Vance, former US secretary of state and UN special envoy, will represent the UN on the new committee.

Lord Carrington had intended to announce his resignation at the end of this week, but was bounced into an official statement because the information had leaked out. He insisted that he had no regrets about how the negotiations. 'I don't honestly think I'd have done things differently. But one thing I have learnt: at the beginning, I had no idea of how easy it was to agree to a ceasefire without doing anything about it - and without intending to do anything about it.'

Those attending include leaders of all the Yugoslav republics - including Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, who is likely to receive most of the brickbats.

The conference will be chaired by the United Nations Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and by John Major. They make their opening speeches today.

Britain will press for tougher action against Serbia, seen by most at the conference as the chief villain. One senior British official said yesterday: 'I'm sure there'll be agreement on the tightening of existing sanctions. We'd be disappointed if that weren't the case.'

Russia, whose Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, held talks with Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, has been the most reluctant to come down firmly against Serbia. British officials seemed hopeful, however, that Russia would also come 'on board'. Lawrence Eagleburger, acting US Secretary of State, said that there was 'pretty close agreement' between him and Mr Kozyrev, in talks yesterday.

Military intervention does not seem, however, to be on the agenda. Yesterday, Mr Boutros- Ghali said: 'I believe the carrot is more important than the stick.'

Among the casualties in Sarajevo yesterday was Martin Bell, a BBC television reporter. He was wearing a flak jacket, but was hit in the groin by two pieces of shrapnel from a mortar bomb. He was taken to a UN clinic for surgery before being flown to Zagreb.

He was said last night to be in a serious but stable condition, which was not life-threatening, and was later flown by a BBC-chartered air ambulance to Heathrow airport, arriving at 11.30. He went from there to a private hospital.

In London yesterday, the Prime Minister of the rump Yugoslavia, Milan Panic - a Serbian-born US businessman - promised support for the declared principle of support for 'civilised behaviour'.

Cuts restrict army, page 3

Conference aims, page 8

(Photograph omitted)

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