Belgrade agrees to peace moves

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BELGRADE - The government of the rump Yugoslavia agreed yesterday to steps aimed at ending ethnic war, including curbing the flow of arms into Bosnia-Herzegovina and demilitarisation of a strategic Croatian peninsula.

The steps were spelled out in a communique signed by the Prime Minister, Milan Panic, and the peace envoys, Lord Owen of the European Community and Cyrus Vance of the United Nations.

Mr Panic agreed to reopen the main motorway between the Croatian capital Zagreb and Belgrade next week. The road was closed a year ago after Serbian- led federal forces intervened to stop Croatia's secession from the federation.

Belgrade agreed to take 'all practical steps' to end the siege of Sarajevo by Serb irregulars and to reverse Serbian expulsions of Muslims and Croats from areas in the former Yugoslav republic.

Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, discussed the measures with Lord Owen and Mr Vance but did not sign the communique. 'It was not submitted to Mr Milosevic and so it does not necessarily carry his approval,' Mr Vance said. But Lord Owen said Mr Milosevic, appeared to have no serious objections.

The communique said agreement in principle had been reached to demilitarise the Prevlaka Peninsula, Croatia's southernmost tip on the Adriatic and part of an 18-mile zone occupied by Yugoslav forces.

Eight people were killed in Bosnia yesterday when a civilian bus travelling from Belgrade to Pale, was attacked. The Bosnian Serb presidency said yesterday that the bus was ambushed by Muslim irregulars on the main road at Karakaj, about 65 miles south- west of Belgrade.

But Stjepan Siber, a spokesman for the Bosnian military command, blamed the attack on Serbian militia, who he said had worn royalist insignia. 'There are no (irregular) Muslim or Croatian forces in that area,' he said. 'There is only the regular Bosnian army. It was done by irregular forces of the other side.' Five trucks and a number of private cars were reported to have been hit in the attack.

The United States is considering a ban on military flights over Bosnia and is consulting with its allies on how it should be implemented, a senior Bush administration official said in Washington, yesterday. One purpose of the 'no-fly' zone would be to prevent Serbian warplanes from shadowing Western relief flights to Sarajevo, the official said.