Bosnian pull-out deal founders

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The United Nations and Bosnia's Muslim-led government failed yesterday to reach a security agreement for Sarajevo's key supply route, throwing into doubt a Bosnian troop withdrawal from a demilitarised zone on Mount Igman, west of Sarajevo.

The Bosnian government was due to begin withdrawing troops from Mt Igman today. Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, had said he would allow the UN to resupply its staff with fuel. The promises of co-operation came on Saturday at meetings between Yasushi Akashi, the UN special envoy, and political leaders from both sides.

Ejup Ganic, a member of the Bosnian presidency, said Bosnian troops would withdraw but he sought in return a UN promise to secure a land route into the city, a link rejected by Mr Akashi and Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, the UN commander in Bosnia. Serbs surrounding the city have frequently fired at traffic on the twisting, unpaved road over Mt Igman; civilians take the risk because it is the only exit from the city under government control.

UN officials agreed only to discuss improving security on the road, but a second meeting with Bosnian officials yesterday was inconclusive. The Bosnian government is hoping a partial withdrawal will encourage the UN to deploy troops on the road, but General Rose is insisting on full compliance.

Sources privately said the UN is willing to station peace- keepers in the area in the hope of dissuading Serb attacks, but that may not satisfy Bosnian demands. 'The road is too vulnerable and we haven't the resources to secure it and protect those passing along it,' said a senior UN official.

The UN is concerned about a possible Serbian reaction to the Bosnian presence on Mt Igman. Mr Karadzic told the UN that Sarajevo's compliance is 'crucial' to Serb co-operation with the UN. 'If the Bosnian army doesn't move off Mount Igman and stop other violations, arrangements for the security of Sarajevo could collapse,' another UN official said. 'Other violations' include digging new trenches and firing mortars.

The forces of General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander, have also violated peace agreements recently - they killed a UN aid driver last week and have stopped the UN from resupplying its peace- keepers with fuel.

British troops in the eastern enclave of Gorazde are using emergency supplies, while stocks in Sarajevo and the other enclaves are dangerously low. General Mladic, who ordered the fuel ban, did not attend Saturday's meeting, to the apparent surprise of Mr Karadzic. He told Mr Akashi that fuel convoys could start running today. 'It remains to be seen whether that verbal promise is translated into reality,' a UN official said.