Nato jets hit Serbs as 'Deliberate Force' goes on

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The Independent Online

Nato launched a fresh round of attacks on the Bosnian Serbs last night, insisting that they cease military operations and sue for peace. The US President, Bill Clinton, calling the air campaign "the right response to the savagery in Sarajevo" said: "The campaign will make clear to the Serbs they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by continuing to attack Sarajevo and other safe areas and by continuing to slaughter innocent civilians."

US officials claimed a diplomatic breakthrough in talks in Belgrade, but there were signs that the success of the air offensive has spurred the Bosnian government to reject the idea of confederation between between the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia proper.

Nato officials would not specify which targets were attacked, but in Sarajevo, two large explosions were heard in the early evening as warplanes flew overhead. Admiral Leighton Smith, the US officer in charge of the action, said Operation Deliberate Force would continue. "We are not about ready to run out of ordnance. We've got plenty left," he said at the alliance's Naples headquarters.

The operation was launched on Wednesday after a shell, which the UN said came from Bosnian Serb forces, killed 37 in Sarajevo on Monday.

There were tentative signs that the strikes were having the required effect. US military officials said reports suggested the shelling of Sarajevo had stopped and there were some indications heavy weapons were being pulled back from the UN-imposed exclusion zone around the Bosnian capital.

But the US emphasised that the objectives of the operation go further. The State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said the Serbs must accept that "the tide of war has turned against them" and it is "time for them to elect peace".

The Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic remained defiant. "If Nato continues its attacks, that means it wants to put an end to the peace process," he said in Pale.

The US negotiator Richard Holbrooke returned to Belgrade from Zagreb, where he met the Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman.

The confusion that resulted from Wednesday's assault continued to cloud the fates of five EU monitors, their translator and driver who went missing in Bosnia. Despite having been reported killed, last night they were reported to be fit and well, and were shown on Bosnian Serb television. Yet only hours before, the Spanish Foreign Minister had professed himself "99.9 per cent certain" that they were dead.

Uncertainty also hung over two French pilots who are believed to have parachuted into Bosnia after their Mirage was shot down. Bosnian Serb sources were reporting that they had been captured while the French Defence Ministry said they were still at large.