Peace talks put off till Monday

Click to follow
The Independent Online
(First Edition)

GENEVA (Reuter, AP) - International mediators announced yesterday there would be no further Bosnia peace talks until Monday - a clear sign that they were having problems getting the Muslim-led government back into negotiations.

John Mills, spokesman for the mediators, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, told reporters there would be no meetings today as originally hoped and they were calling Serb and Croat leaders back to Geneva on Monday.

Mr Mills made his announcement after some eight hours of discussions between the mediators and a delegation headed by Bosnia's Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic.

Mr Izetbegovic told reporters as he left at the end of the discussions: 'We keep insisting on the withdrawal of Serb forces from Mount Igman and Mount Bjelasnica' - the heights near Sarajevo which the Serbs have seized in the past few days. He said the day-long discussions with Lord Owen and Mr Stoltenberg had failed to make any progress on a map for a new 'union' of three ethnic republics.

Earlier in the day, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, after a meeting at his headquarters in Pale, said his troops would withdraw from Mount Igman and Mount Bjelasnica.

The Geneva talks have hovered near collapse since Mr Izetbegovic suspended bargaining on Monday, saying he would not return unless the Serbs withdrew from the two mountains. A particular question is the status of Sarajevo, which the government wants to keep a unified city in the Muslim zone. Serbs oppose this. 'We have agreed to unblock Sarajevo,' the Bosnian Serbs' deputy leader, Nikola Koljevic, said after speaking to Mr Karadzic on the phone yesterday. 'With this we are removing all the obstacles that have hindered the Geneva talks.' The troop withdrawal from the two mountains should be complete by today, Mr Koljevic said, and UN troops will take over to ensure Muslim forces do not move back in.

'Everything what is agreed will be carried out,' said Gen Ratko Mladic, the military commander responsible for the recent offensives. Mr Koljevic also promised Serbs would no longer shell Sarajevo from another peak, Mount Trebevic.

However, Gen Francis Briquemont, the Belgian head of UN forces in Bosnia, said 'actions speak louder than words'. The Bosnian Foreign Minister, Haris Silajdzic, cautiously welcomed the agreement, saying: 'We need to wait for it to happen before we can believe it.'

(Photograph omitted)