Leaders stake positions ahead of Bosnia peace talks

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The Independent Online
THE Bosnian Croat leader, Mate Boban, yesterday said that he expected Bosnia's warring factions to accept an international peace plan at talks between the three sides today.

But members of the Muslim-majority Bosnian government delegation said they were opposed to the peace plan. The Foreign Minister, Haris Silajdzic, said he was opposed to it 'as it stands', but that it could be amended overnight before resumption of the peace talks. Mr Silajdzic said transitional arrangements which provide for an interim government after the signing of a peace pact were 'unacceptable'.

Bosnian Serb forces fought violent artillery battles with Muslim troops in the Drina valley on the Serbian border yesterday and halted Muslim advances on four towns, according to local radio. Sources said the Serbs were moving northward towards Srebrenica, near the Serbian-Bosnian border and 50 miles north-east of Sarajevo. But central Bosnia-Herzegovina was quiet after a ceasefire agreement which was reached in Geneva on Wednesday between President Alija Izetbegovic and Mr Boban.

Fighting between Croats and Muslims, centred on the Muslim town of Gornji Vakuf, broke out on 11 January after the Bosnian Defence Minister, Bozo Raic, a Croat, ordered army units in the area to place themselves under the command of Croatian officers in the HVO, the Bosnian Croat guerrilla army.

On Thursday, the UN commander in the former Yugoslavia, Lt-Gen Satish Nambiar, described the situation in Bosnia and Croatia as 'very bleak' and said the UN could do very little in Croatia. The current fighting between the Croatian army and Serbs is in the UN's Sector South in Croatia.

'Unless there is a general ceasefire and full and genuine implementation of the latest security council resolutions and of earlier resolutions, the Vance plan and associated aspects do not have much of a future,' he said. Lt-Gen Nambiar, as the commander in Croatia and Bosnia, controls the two separate UN protection forces. Unprofor 1, monitoring four UN protected areas (UNPA) in Croatia, has limited rules of engagement and has been powerless to stop the Croatian army seizing territory populated by Serbs. Unprofor 2, escorting humanitarian aid in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has more robust rules of engagement and can shoot back.

'There is nothing a peace-keeping force, with its relatively small numbers of troops who are lightly armed, can do in such circumstances to prevent an invasion, or prevent the predictable counter-attack,' said Lt-Gen Nambiar. 'Our job is to move forward on the basis of the agreements the parties have made with us. If one side tears up the agreement, and resorts to armed force, our people have only light weapons to defend themselves.'

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