Muslims and Croats start offensive

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SARAJEVO - Muslims and Croats, allies again after a year of bitter fighting, pressed home a joint infantry and tank attack on Serbian forces in central Bosnia yesterday, United Nations officials said.

In France, closed-door peace talks got under way with the Muslim-Croat alliance telling international mediators they were now ready to negotiate on how much territory they would get under an accord with the Serbs.

As the commander of UN troops in Bosnia told the Muslims bluntly they had no hope of achieving a decisive victory, the United States and France made clear the Muslims should not expect the arms embargo to be lifted.

Speaking in Annapolis, President Bill Clinton said unilaterally lifting the embargo, as some members of Congress urge, would dash chances for peace in Bosnia and hurt US ties with Europe.

Meanwhile, the UN reported Croat tanks had joined Muslim troops in shelling Serb positions around Tesanj in central Bosnia. It appeared to be their first major joint action in central Bosnia since they re-established their alliance three months ago.

Representatives of the Serbs, Croats and Muslims gathered in the French lakeside resort of Talloires for talks with mediators from the 'international contact group' on Bosnia's ethnic division.

Diplomats said that the contact group would present participants with a new map of Bosnia giving Serbs 49 per cent, compared to the 70 per cent they now hold, and 51 per cent to a new Muslim-Croat federation.