Bosnian armies ignore truce

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The Independent Online
ARTILLERY and small arms fire continued unabated in central Bosnia yesterday, as the warring factions fought on in defiance of an agreement to hold their fire in the weeks leading to a new diplomatic offensive. Ministers from Russia and the Western powers are to meet tomorrow to finalise their peace ultimatum - a new map partitioning Bosnia which they plan to present to both sides this week on a 'take-it-or- leave-it' basis, but neither army shows any sign of abandoning the struggle on the battlefield.

Bosnian Serb soldiers counter-attacking from positions on Mount Ozren are said to have regained some of the territory lost to a Bosnian government (BiHA) offensive and to have inflicted heavy casualties. For the past three weeks BiHA soldiers have fought - with some success - to take an important supply road (known in UN-speak as Route Duck) that would link their strongholds of Tuzla and Zenica. But according to the UN, which has not been able to send observers to the region, the Serbs are fighting back. Peace-keepers on the Bosnian side of the line, which runs south past Zavidovici along the Serb- held 'Doboj finger' and then north to Gradacac, reported artillery and machine-gun fire in both towns yesterday.

A Bosnian Serb official told Reuters: 'I would say the army has the situation under control. We have managed to repulse a major attack from Zavidovici.' A UN spokesman said local reports indicated heavy Bosnian casualties. The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, has warned that his soldiers will retaliate unless the BiHA offensive is called off; now Bosnian sources fear his army is turning its attention to the main road into Sarajevo.

According to a military source quoted by Reuters, several hundred Serbian soldiers accompanied by 20 tanks are moving towards the road over Mount Igman, the only supply route into Sarajevo from the coast. 'We believe two BSA (Bosnian Serb army) brigades have moved into position behind Igman in recent days and we are expecting an attack in that area,' the officer said. 'The road is vulnerable. It would not take much to cut the route and halt traffic in and out of Sarajevo.'

The fighting does not bode well for the new diplomatic intiative, due to be discussed this week by the G7 industrial nations and Russia. An agreement to end offensives for a month, which was intended to be a cooling-off period before a new diplomatic round, collapsed almost before it began; military action in Bosnia is now back at pre-truce levels, the UN said. Attacks on peace-keepers have also increased, with 39 incidents in the past week alone.