Bosnia ceasefire sags in fresh clashes

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THE latest attacks on United Nations peace-keepers, culminating in Sunday's death of a British soldier, mark a further deterioration in the 'cessation of hostilities' agreed in Geneva on 8 June.

Muslim and Serb forces clashed with infantry and artillery in north-central Bosnia, the UN said yesterday. Fighting was heaviest around the strategic Mount Ozren and the Serb-held town of Doboj, a region where Muslim-led Bosnian army forces have gained ground from the Serbs in recent days.

Their objective is a road between the cities of Zenica and Tuzla, which would provide an all-weather supply route from the Adriatic coast to central and northern Bosnia.

Last week, the Bosnian army launched a big attack on the Serbs in central Bosnia, and the Serbs retaliated with heavy shelling in the areas of Zavidovici and Maglaj where 500 shells were fired on Sunday, and the key Posavina corridor in northern Bosnia. A UN spokesman in Zagreb said yesterday the situation appeared to have deteriorated to what it was before the 8 June cessation.

In Washington, a Senate vote later this week demanding that the US unilaterally lift its arms embargo on Bosnia may again throw President Bill Clinton's Balkan policy into turmoil. Despite intense lobbying by the White House and European allies, diplomats believe Senators will vote for an amendment ending the embargo on weapon supplies.

Even if the embargo does not pass into law - President Clinton may veto the defence bill to which the amendment is attached - European diplomats are concerned that the Senate vote by itself may encourage Bosnian Muslims and Serbs to revert to the military option. The Muslims will hope more arms will change the military balance in their favour and the Serbs will want to make a pre-emptive attack before it does.

Supporters of an end to the arms embargo say the plan for the redivision of Bosnia prepared by the US, Russia and Western Europe has no chance of success; the Bosnian Serbs will not withdraw from much of the 70 per cent of Bosnia they hold. Mr Clinton will be left without a credible policy and may hesitate to veto an end to the embargo.

The Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, lobbied Senators against lifting the embargo last week. Major Gen Rupert Smith of the Ministry of Defence said ending the ban might lead to the removal of UN troops and an 'upsurge in bloody fighting'. This led Senator Carl Levin to say of the last three years: 'My God, what has this been but bloody.'