Sarajevo `quiet' for now

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THE front lines around Sarajevo were quiet yesterday, after the fierce fighting of the past two days. The UN believes the Bosnian government has advanced on several fronts near the city, but there have as yet been no signs of a rebel Serb counter-attack.

Several shells hit the city, and officials reported at least one person dead and three wounded yesterday. The totals for Friday, they said, were 20 people killed - at least 15 of them soldiers - and 42 wounded, while Serb sources said five of their civilians had been killed and 80 wounded.

Fierce fire-fights broke out in mid-afternoon to the southeast of the city. Heavy fighting continued close to the Serb-held village of Hadzici, west of Sarajevo.

At least two shells were fired at Pale, the Bosnian Serb "capital", but landed harmlessly in woodland. The Serb stronghold has not been shelled since 1992.

Although Pale has not yet suffered the effects of war, there is Serb concern over the Bosnian attack on the main road west to Lukavica, which is perilously close to becoming a Serb enclave.

The isolation of Serb positions in Lukavica and Ilidza, north of the airport, "would give the Bosnian government some serious leverage in trying to lift the siege of Sarajevo", one UN official said.

There was some surprise in UN ranks at the silence yesterday morning - though most people expect the battles to go on. "One would imagine that there is an intent to continue. It has been quiet and it begs the question why?" said Lt-Col Gary Coward, a UN spokesman. Speculation includes the possibility that the Serbs are short of ammunition or are waiting until the main Bosnian thrust.

"The Serbs will probably try to recover the lost ground," Yasushi Akashi, the UN envoy, said. He was due to visit Belgrade for talks with President Slobodan Milosevic. Mr Akashi is seeking the release of 26 peace-keepers still held hostage in Pale.

At the G7 summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, last night, French President Jacques Chirac said all the remaining UN peace-keepers held hostage by the rebel Serbs should be freed within hours.

Further reports, page 14