Sarajevo shaken by bomb blasts

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SARAJEVO was shaken by bomb blasts yesterday - but even as they fought, Serbian and Muslim forces agreed to start exchanging all prisoners of war.

The shelling was lighter than on Saturday, when UN monitors counted 590 projectiles hitting the city and 69 rounds fired by Sarajevo defenders at Serbian positions.

Saturday's was the fiercest attack in months, and brought General Jean Cot, commander of the UN forces in former Yugoslavia, to the Bosnian capital.

At least seven people died in Sarajevo on Saturday and 55 were wounded. Bosnian army officials claimed the Serbs were using chemical weapons throughout the weekend, but that report could not be substantiated.

Bosnian radio disclosed yesterday that rival Bosnian government and Serbian leaders had met at Sarajevo airport, at the height of the fighting on Saturday, and agreed to exchange all prisoners, starting on Wednesday.

Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims agreed last month to exchange all prisoners they hold, but the handover has not yet materialised. Croatian radio reported yesterday that Croatian and Bosnian Croat leaders remained committed to start an 'all-for-all' exchange with the Muslim-led Bosnian government on Tuesday - the day agreed on last week by the two sides.

The Serbs also pledged safe passage of convoys to Maglaj and Tesanj at the airport talks. About 150,000 Muslims have been trapped by besieging Serbs in and near the two north-eastern cities since June. They are often shelled by Serb forces, Maglaj most recently on Sunday.

Two convoys are scheduled to go to the cities this week. Earlier attempts have failed after Serbian forces failed to provide safe passage, despite pledges to the contrary.

The aid crisis is expected to intensify as winter approaches. After a meeting with Bosnian President, Alia Izetbegovic, yesterday, Nicholas Morris, special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, predicted this winter would be 'much worse' than last, when mild temperatures and stocks of fuel and food lessened suffering. This year, casualties 'will be enormous', he said.

Another privately organised convoy of 72 trucks, to Gradacac in north-eastern Bosnia, was attacked yesterday by Bosnian Croats at Prozor, at least two vehicles stolen and drivers beaten up.

Heavily-armoured British combat vehicles were monitoring the convoy, but their commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Alastair Duncan, said his troops would interfere only if lives were threatened.

Earlier, his troops evacuated 50 Croatian wounded from Novi Bila in central Bosnia, besieged by government troops. In exchange, Croats allowed 11 wounded Muslims to leave the southern city of Mostar.