Sarajevo shelled amid plans for new peace talks

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SARAJEVO - International mediators announced that they plan a new round of Bosnia peace talks this month as an upsurge of shelling and sniping wounded at least eight people in Sarajevo yesterday.

The peace envoys, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, hoped to reconvene the talks between Bosnia's Serbs, Muslims and Croats in Geneva on 21 December, said their spokesman, John Mills.

President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia were invited, together with the leaders of the rebel Bosnian Serbs and Croats.

'There will be bilateral contacts in the coming week leading up to the planned resumption of the peace talks,' Mr Mills said. The main issues would be securing one-third of Bosnia for a Muslim-led republic in a proposed three-way partition described as a 'union of republics', access to the sea, and the future of Sarajevo, which is under Serbian siege.

Plans for a meeting this weekend in the Greek port of Thessaloniki were shelved after talks in Belgrade on Thursday, attended by Serbian political leaders and unidentified Croatian officials, failed to make enough progress. The Croats' presence at Thursday's talks was reported by the Belgrade newspaper Politika.

The new date for the Geneva meeting would be two days after Serbian general elections, which are not expected to produce any major political changes. It was not immediately known if the elections were a factor in the choice of date.

In Sarajevo, hospital officials reported at least eight people wounded in the latest shelling and sniping. Witnesses said shells hit residential districts as well as contested frontline areas to the north of the city centre.

Drivers hastily abandoned three cars hit by bullets while travelling along the notorious central boulevard known as 'Sniper Alley'.

The level of shelling in Sarajevo has increased in the last two days, but United Nations military observers said that apart from small Muslim gains early in the week the front lines had not changed.