Bosnian Serbs step up their attacks

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BOSNIAN SERBS have been pressing ahead with military campaigns in northern and north-western Bosnia, allegedly killing one French peace- keeper in the process yesterday. Meanwhile, Muslim and Croatian military leaders met a former Nato supreme commander to begin work on establishing a new Bosnian joint command.

According to United Nations sources, a sniper killed a French soldier in the north- western Bihac pocket. UN sources based in the mainly- Muslim enclave said that the soldier - the 19th French peace-keeper killed on duty in the former Yugoslavia - was shot in the neck while on guard at a UN observation post in Otoka along the frontline Una River.

In Paris, military authorities identified the dead man as a senior corporal, Stephane Dubrulle, and said they were nearly certain Serb forces had killed him. 'We don't have formal proof but the shot came from Serb lines,' a senior army officer said.

A UN spokesman in Sarajevo said Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose, the UN force commander in Bosnia, supports calling in Nato warplanes to retaliate for attacks on UN personnel, but added: 'In this case he doesn't know the origin of the fire.'

The Serbs have recently stepped up their attacks on the Bihac pocket, apparently intent on seizing the Unska railway, which links Serb-held areas of northern Bosnian with Serb-held areas of Croatia.

At the same time the Serbs, under the command of General Ratko Mladic, are trying to crush the Muslim enclave of Maglaj in northern Bosnia. On Thursday, Serbs unleashed a fierce missile attack on the town, killing 12 people and flattening eight apartment buildings, according to Bosnian radio. The radio said that the Serbs used medium-range Luna missiles against Maglaj, whose 19,000 residents have been cut off from the outside world for months.

The Serbs have intensified their attacks in the light of a US-brokered agreement between Muslims and Croats to end their war-within-a-war and form a federation.

However, the UN envoy to the former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, warned yesterday in Geneva that the Bosnian Serbs had to become full partners in the US-led push for a federation. 'The federation agreement leaves the Serbs outside. I see a sense of isolation, some bitterness and some hostility among the Serbs in Croatia and in Bosnia,' Mr Akashi said, adding that he was concerned that the federation could become 'a hostile alliance' against the Serbs.

That possibility was given a boost yesterday amid reports that General John Galvin, the former supreme commander of Nato, met Croatian, Bosnian Croat and Muslim military chiefs in Zagreb to set up a joint command in Bosnia. He is the military adviser to the US envoy, Charles Redman, who is brokering negotiations to establish a Bosnian federation of Croats and Muslims.