Panic promises end to 'ethnic cleansing'

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The Independent Online
MILAN PANIC, the flamboyant Serbian- born Californian businessman and first Prime Minister of the reduced Yugoslavia, yesterday emerged from several hours of talks with the Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, to declare that peace in Bosnia was now in sight.

They had agreed heavy artillery should be pulled back from the eastern Bosnian town of Gorazde into Yugoslav territory, and that heavy artillery surrounding Sarajevo should be delivered into the safekeeping of the UN.

After meeting Mr Izetbegovic, Mr Panic said the Yugoslav and Serbian side was ready to end 'this stupid, unbelievable, unconscionable war'. He also declared 'ethnic cleansing (the deportation and killing of Muslims in Bosnia) is over'.

However, heavy fighting continued in Sarajevo last night, four hours after the ceasefire deadline of 6pm local time agreed by the Bosnian government and its Serbian opponents in London on Friday.

In Vienna, the Austrian government said yesterday that its decision to accept a train bearing 824 refugees from Bosnia on Saturday had been an exception based on dire humanitarian need, and did not mean it had reopened its borders to all fleeing from Yugoslavia.

'We've told the Croatian government that we will not accept any more refugee convoys of this kind,' said Walter Kratzer, for the Interior Ministry. 'We made an exception on Saturday because the circumstances were very special.' The train taking the refugees into Austria was one of three trapped at the border between Croatia and Slovenia since Thursday night. Another was accepted by Italy yesterday, while the fate of the third remained unclear. Many of the estimated 4,000 refugees on board the trains were sick or wounded. Some were reported to have died as a result of the delay.

At the beginning of the month, Austria, which has taken more than 50,000 refugees and claims its facilities have been stretched to the full, said it would accept no more without visas. Last week Croatia, which has received 360,000 from Bosnia, said it could not cope with more and would send newcomers straight on to third countries.

In Brussels, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, who was chairing a meeting of EC foreign ministers after returning from a Balkan tour yesterday, said he feared the ceasefire might mean more refugees would use the lull to seek a safer place. 'The first result of a ceasefire may well be more refugees, as people who have been trapped in a particular town escape.'

Last-minute peace flight, page 8