American killed as snipers attack Panic's convoy

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Sarajevo - A sniper killed a US television journalist yesterday in an attack on a convoy taking the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Milan Panic, into Sarajevo for peace talks. Mr Panic, who was in an armoured personnel-carrier provided by UN peace-keepers, was unhurt. But David Kaplan, 45, a producer for the ABC television network, in an accompanying vehicle, was hit in the back by a bullet and died later at UN headquarters.

Kaplan, who had refused to wear a flak jacket for the drive from the airport along a notorious highway known as Sniper Alley, was the 30th journalist killed in 14 months of Yugoslavia's war.

Mr Panic, clearly distressed, said: 'Criminals killed him . . . Terrorists killed him . . . These are crippled people mentally.' Apparently quoting from a confidential report which he had read during his flight from Belgrade, he said: 'Do you know, to kill one journalist (the snipers) get 500 bucks.'

Mr Panic had flown to the Bosnian capital to meet leaders of the warring Muslim, Croat and Serb communities before peace talks in Brussels today sponsored by the European Community. An aide told the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug that Kaplan's death disrupted Mr Panic's schedule and he managed only a 20-minute telephone call with Bosnia's Mulsim President, Alija Izetbegovic.

The Bosnian leader met the British Foreign Office minister, Douglas Hogg, who is finalising arrangements for an international conference on Yugoslavia in London later this month. Mr Hogg told journalists that if the conference made progress there was 'a chance, just a chance of getting a ceasefire'. Previous ceasefire attempts have failed in Bosnia.

Mr Hogg said he stressed to Mr Izetbegovic that there would be no Western military intervention in the war although the United Nations was preparing to sanction the use of force to protect humanitarian convoys.

'I explained very clearly there is no cavalry coming over the hill, that there is no international force coming . . .' he said. 'The only way this killing is going to stop is by negotiation.'

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) accused all three communities in Bosnia of using 'systematic brutality' against innocent civilians. It said in Geneva, after visiting camps run by Muslims, Croats and Serbs, that all were flouting Geneva conventions regulating the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war.

The ICRC report said all three communities were guilty of 'ethnic cleansing', evicting members of other communities to make towns and villages homogeneous. 'Following visits carried out in recent days .. the ICRC has been able to establish that innocent civilians have been arrested and made the victims of inhuman treatment,' it said.

Fighting has eased in most of the battle zones since a wave of international anger over allegations about death camps in Bosnia spurred demands for outside intervention. A correspondent in northern Bosnia, where up to 28,000 Muslims fear they will become victims of Serbian 'ethnic cleansing', said there was an atmosphere of terror in the region. Many of them wanted to be evacuated to Croatia, which is already glutted with refugees and says it cannot cope with a further influx.

The United Nations said after negotiations with local Serbian representatives that time had been bought for more talks. Tony Land, of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: 'Now (the Serbs) understand the spotlight is on them. This outrage is not happening in the dark. The longer we delay it (the exodus), the better chance we have of stopping it.'

LONDON - Britain is becoming increasingly concerned about the possibility of the Bosnian conflict spreading to Kosovo on the Albanian border, writes Colin Brown. Downing Street sources expressed concern about the possibility of the fighting becoming enflamed on the Albanian border.

Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, warned yesterday it could drag Greece, Turkey and the rest of Europe into war, if a peaceful settlement was not imposed.

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