Bosnia peace talks resume at UN

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LEADERS OF Bosnia's three warring communities are to resume talks today with Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, co-presidents of the peace conference on the former Yugoslavia, at United Nations headquarters in New York, amid no sign of a breakthrough.

The meeting may mark the first time all three Bosnian leaders have met round the same table at UN headquarters since the war began. The main items on the agenda are arranging a ceasefire between the three armies and getting to work on maps of Bosnia, which propose to divide the republic into 10 autonomous provinces organised on ethnic lines.

The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and the Croat leader, Mate Boban, are already in New York, awaiting Bosnia's Muslim president, Alija Izetbegovic, following his talks with the US Vice-President, Al Gore.

Numerous hitches have prevented face-to-face talks between the three leaders at the UN. Mr Izetbegovic refused to attend the last round of UN talks, citing a crisis caused by an anti-aid strike in Sarajevo against the UN's failure to get food to Muslim enclaves.

This time round Mr Karadzic threatened not to go. He was restricted to a 10-block radius in New York on his last visit, and has complained of harassment by anti- Serb demonstrators.

Even if all three meet, no breakthrough is to be expected. The Bosnian Serbs have little incentive to hand back any of the land they seized from Muslims. Relations between Croats and Muslims - nominal allies against the Serbs - are worse than ever.

Croatian forces in Bosnia yesterday instituted a road blockade of supplies to mainly Muslim Bosnian army forces. A statement from the Bosnian Croat army headquarters in Mostar accused the Bosnian army of massing 25,000 troops around Croatian districts in central Bosnia, and of planning a coup against President Izetbegovic while he is in New York. The Bosnian Croat army chiefs called for the authorities in Sarajevo to sack the head of the Bosnian army, Sefer Halilovic.

The latest Croatian-Muslim squabble is another headache for UN peace-keepers escorting aid to central Bosnia. A UN-brokered agreement halted fights between the two groups in central Bosnia for about a month.

While Bosnian Muslims and Croats spat, Bosnian Serbs carry out 'ethnic cleansing'. More than 1,500 Muslims were expelled by Serbs from the Banja Luka region at the weekend and forced to walk at gunpoint for several miles across snowy hillsides to Bosnian forces-held Turbe, near Travnik. UN peace-keepers and a British television crew helped carry babies and small children across the last icy pass into Turbe.

At one point Serbian troops fired at the Muslims to make them move faster. UN refugees officials in Bosnia have complained to the Bosnian Serbs about the expulsion. The Bosnian Serbs replied in characteristic fashion - they ordered the expulsion of another 1,000 Muslims to Turbe.

On the Bosnian-Serbian border, about 25 Muslims were reported kidnapped from a train by Serbian irregulars and taken to an unknown destination in Serb-held Bosnia. The abduction from a train travelling from Belgrade to Bar in Montenegro took place in a village just inside Bosnia.

Terrified eyewitnesses said the kidnappers were dressed in the uniform of the 'Tigers' - a Serbian paramilitary group controlled by the notorious militia leader Zeljko Raznjatovic, known as 'Arkan'. The incident forms part of a pattern of growing violence against Muslims living on the Bosnian-Serbian border. Seventeen Muslims from Sjeverin, a village near the Bosnian border, were recently kidnapped and presumed killed by Serbs.