Bosnia sets tough terms for a ceasefire

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The Independent Online


Sarajevo - Bosnia's Muslim-led government tried to dictate ceasefire terms yesterday to end the three-year war and told the increasingly embattled Serbs to give up control of their stronghold of Banja Luka.

But the Serbs showed no signs of agreeing to the terms and said they were launching attacks to repel the joint Muslim-Croat offensive which has pushed Serbs from a vast area of territory in western Bosnia over the past two weeks.

"We have stopped this offensive and we will try to liberate some of these traditional Serb territories," the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic told reporters in Banja Luka.

Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic, had called on the Serbs on Thursday to demilitarise Banja Luka, giving effective military control of the area to the Muslim and Croat forces. He followed that up yesterday with conditions for a ceasefire covering the whole country on terms the Serbs seem equally unlikely to accept.

A letter from the Foreign Minister, Muhamed Sacirbey, to the UN Security Council demanded the complete lifting of the Serb siege of Sarajevo and the opening of a secure road to the Muslim enclave of Gorazde which Serbs surround in eastern Bosnia.

Meeting either condition would mean a further loss of leverage in peace talks for the Serbs, who were forced to remove most of their siege guns from around Sarajevo by Nato bombing this month.

They have also been battered by the Muslim-Croat offensive which has redrawn the map close to the 49:51 per cent division on which international peace efforts are predicated.

"We will not accept the results of this aggression after the Nato bombardment and after the Geneva accords. All of it is illegal and it has to be null and void," Mr Karadzic said,

Mr Sacirbey staked out the Sarajevo government's position ahead of the next round of diplomatic bargaining over Bosnia's future which is to take place in New York next Tuesday.

The foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia and Yugoslavia - which represents the Bosnian Serbs - will meet US and European Union mediators.

Meanwhile, a reconnaissance photograph of a plane drawn in the dirt prompted Nato rescue missions for a pair of French airmen downed over Bosnia. Two US servicemen were lightly wounded in one of the attempts, Nato said.

The French airmen were not located.