Milosevic agrees to monitors on Bosnia border

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The Independent Online
NORWAY said yesterday that rump Yugoslavia had accepted international monitors to check that Belgrade's blockade against rebel Serbs in Bosnia is being observed. The Deputy Foreign Minister, Jan Egeland, said that Norway was sending 20 monitors, to be part of a 135-strong force deployed on the border of Serbia and Bosnia.

But as this diplomatic move was getting underway, Serbian forces in Croatia fired rockets into the Muslim-held enclave of Bihac in north-west Bosnia, stepping up a tank and troop offensive on two fronts that began on Thursday.

At least one woman was killed and two others were seriously wounded when the rockets hit Velika Kladusa, United Nations officials said. The offensive involves Serbs from the rebel Krajina region of Croatia who have attacked from the north, and Bosnian Serbs who have penetrated from the east. Bihac is one of six mainly Muslim regions of Bosnia that the UN has declared 'safe areas'. The combined Serbian forces would like to capture it, as it controls a railway line running from Zagreb to Split, Croatia's two largest cities.

The attack on Bihac is proceeding in tandem with intensified 'ethnic cleansing' of Muslims in north-east Bosnia. On Thursday night, between 500 and 600 Muslims, mainly women, children and elderly people from the Serb-held town of Bijeljina, were rounded up, robbed and pushed across the front line near Tuzla.

It is a familiar pattern, and may be connected with the possible lifting next month of the UN arms embargo against the Muslims. Bosnian Serb commanders have vowed to crush Muslim communities if the UN Security Council lifts the embargo. Since mid-July, more than 3,000 Muslims have been expelled from Bijeljina by Vojislav Djurkovic, the president of the regional 'exchange commission'. Another group is expected this morning or tomorrow, according to Lisa Jones, spokeswoman in Sarajevo for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

'The groups had to walk approximately five miles across the confrontation line,' she said. 'At least 100 men were taken away to an unknown destination.'

Although the Red Cross and the UN have condemned the expulsions, their protests have had no effect. 'At this present time we are unable to do anything,' Claire Grimes, a UN spokeswoman, said. The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, blamed 'uncontrolled elements'. At a meeting on Thursday in Pale with a senior UN official, Sergio Vieira de Mello, he promised to act. Mr de Mello apparently accepted his word. Hours later more victims crossed to Tuzla. Aid workers say Mr Karadzic's men complained to Mr Djurkovic.