Battle for mountain could seal Sarajevo's fate

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BOSNIA'S Muslim-led government forces defending the mountain stronghold which controls the last supply route into Sarajevo were under assault yesterday by Serbian infantry and artillery.

Official Serbian sources claimed the Serbs captured the south-western part of Mount Igman on Monday, but Muslim-run Sarajevo Radio said government forces were holding fast.

United Nations aid workers said that more than 3,000 Muslim refugees had fled to the foothills of Mount Igman from the nearby town of Trnovo, which fell to the Serbs on 12 July. If the Serbs capture Mount Igman, the refugees and about 20,000 other Muslims living in the area will be forced to enter Sarajevo.

But their only crossing point will be the airport runway which stretches to the city limits. The runway is a very dangerous route - snipers have shot dead scores of civilians since the Bosnian war erupted in April 1992.

Alija Izetbegovic, Bosnia's Muslim President, appealed to the UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to save Sarajevo from all-out assault.

For the city's residents, the last month has been one of the blackest and most desperate of the war. There have been no gas and electricity supplies, and very little running water. The only bakery has been closed since last Thursday for lack of fuel. UN workers planned to start repairing public utilities on Monday but were forced to abandon their efforts because of sniper fire.

The international humanitarian aid operation has also run into trouble since Croatian forces in southern Bosnia have prevented relief convoys driving from the Adriatic coast to the Bosnian capital. The European Community decided on Monday not to impose sanctions on Croatia.

Sarajevo's inhabitants depend largely on the black market and on UN airlifts of food to stay alive. But UN officials said the airlifts provided only about 60 per cent of the food needed.

In a further sign of the Bosnian Serbs' determination, their leader, Radovan Karadzic, announced plans to unite his self-proclaimed state with Serb-held regions of Croatia. Such a move could undermine efforts by the leaders of Croatia and Serbia to conclude a peace agreement, but it strengthens Serbian extremist plans to create a Greater Serbia.

Croats cleanse Mostar, page 10

Leading article, page 21

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