UN protests as fighting in Bosnia spreads

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Sarajevo (Reuter) - Heavy shelling was reported yesterday around the north-western town of Bosanska Krupa, where forces of the Muslim-led Bosnian government army are attempting to dislodge the Bosnian Serbs.

In the Bosnian capital, an artillery exchange between Serbs and Muslims in a Sarajevo suburbs only stopped after the United Nations called in Nato warplanes to over-fly rival positions. The UN has protested to the Bosnian government about the Sarajevo clashes.

``It's not in the interests of peace,'' said General Sir Michael Rose, commander of UN troops in Bosnia.

The UN spokesman, Major Herve Gourmelon, said of the military situation in north-western Bosnia: ``There was heavy fighting in Bosanska Krupa with an unspecified number of heavy casualties on both sides.''

Government forces have been attacking the town since launching an offensive 11 days ago, forcing Serbs to retreat in north-west and central Bosnia and taking 95 square miles of territory in the Bihac pocket alone. The multi-pronged Muslim assault in north-western, central and eastern Bosnia, severely stretched limited Bosnian-Serb manpower and hampered movement of their armour, forcing them for the first time in the 31-month war to yield large areas of territory to their hitherto poorly armed foes.

By yesterday, however, there were increasing signs that the Serbs were beginning to fight back around Bihac. A television crew in the area reported that the Serbs had taken high ground at Cukovi, about 12 miles south-east of Bihac town.

UN sources said Serbs in the nearby Krajina region of Croatia appeared to be reinforcing their positions along the Croatian-Bosnian border with a view to hemming in Bosnian government forces.

The sources said Krajina Serbs had refused to allow Gen Rose to cross their territory to make a planned visit to Bihac yesterday.

The Bosnian army said it had taken 25 square miles of territory in an area north of Sarajevo and captured Serb anti-aircraft guns and ammunition. But the Bosnian Serbs denied that a Muslim infantry and artillery attack had succeeded in breaking through Serb lines, while the UN said the amount of ground claimed by the Bosnians was probably exaggerated.

All was quiet yesterday in Kupres, central Bosnia, the first town captured by the Bosnian government army in the war. The town centre was virtually deserted, and the outskirts were guarded by a few Muslim and Croat soldiers huddled around fires on a windswept plain.