Muslims take land ahead of Bosnia truce talks

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The Independent Online
BOSNIA'S warring sides manoeuvred yesterday on political and military fronts for bargaining positions ahead of talks on a ceasefire and an overall peace.

The next round of negotiations, to be held under United Nations auspices in Geneva this week, is aimed at achieving a ceasefire.

A truce would give all sides a breathing space during which talks organised by an international mediating group, consisting of the United States, Russia and the European Union, could be held on the territorial division of Bosnia.

The Muslim-led government army, which recently has made limited gains against the Serbs - the first in the two-year war - was said to be on the move in central Bosnia in an attempt to take more territory before any talks.

'Experience has taught us that if anything is to be achieved on the political level, first, circumstances for it (have to) be prepared on the military level,' the Bosnian military commander, General Rasim Delic, said. 'The time of our defensive tactics is over.'

A UN military official in Sarajevo reacted angrily to a threat by Bosnia's President, Alija Izetbegovic, to stay away from Geneva peace talks unless the Serbs withdrew from a UN-mandated exclusion zone around Gorazde. Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Shadbolt said UN peacekeeping troops could not be expected to remain in Bosnia for ever.

Two Serbian soldiers were killed and three wounded in an attack by government forces along the front line on Mount Vlasic, 50 miles north-west of Sarajevo, a Bosnian Serb military statement said. The Muslims were reported this week to have pushed the Serbs off part of the 5,700ft-high mountain that dominates much of central Bosnia. But the peak is still said to be in Bosnian Serb hands.

A UN spokesman confirmed that government troops had also taken some ground further north.