Shell blasts London peace hopes

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - (AP, Reuter) The attack on a crowded market-place yesterday, which killed 15 people and injured at least 78, was Sarajevo's bloodiest since more than 20 people died in a bread queue here in May, and underscored deep tensions between the warring factions in the wake of last week's London peace conference.

Sources with the UN Protection Force said the blast came from a 105mm shell which could have been fired by either a tank or an artillery piece, but it was impossible to say whether it had specifically targeted the market.

Fred Eckhart, head of the UN mission here, expressed dire pessimism that peace-keeping troops could do anything to improve the situation. 'It would be nice if we could turn ourselves into a police force and run up into the hills and grab those people and bring them to justice,' he said in a BBC radio interview. 'All the parties told us they would stop fighting so that we could come in here and begin a peace process,' he said, alluding to the London conference. 'It's immensely frustrating for us.' He described the attack as 'a blow to the solar plexus of your hope.'

The attack also diluted optimism over reports that the siege of Gorazde had ended, which would mean relief for as many as 100,000 people trapped in the city 60km (40 miles) south-east of Sarajevo. Gorazde, a Muslim town surrounded by a mountainous patchwork of Serbian and Muslim lines, had been almost completely isolated since the Bosnian conflict erupted in April.

But both Serbs and Muslims reported the end of the Serb siege of Gorazde. Reporters who accompanied the only UN relief convoy to reach Gorazde two weeks ago said bombing had left no building unscathed, there was no access to water, electricity, food or medicines and the many wounded were receiving treatment without anaesthetics. The UN said it would send an aid convoy to Gorazde today to test the truth of the rival claims and take relief to the town's inhabitants.

Following intense fighting on the ground while the London talks were in progress, Serbian and Muslim forces have since exchanged furious gunfire in Sarajevo - described by the Serbs as an attempt to break their siege of the Bosnian capital.

The Serbs have accused the Muslims of violating peace agreements made in London in an attempt to punch a corridor through Serb-held territory to the west of Sarajevo and link up with a swathe of Croatian land down to the Adriatic coast.

Yesterday's mortar attack in Sarajevo cast a dark shadow on the international London conference on Yugoslavia at which all main factions in the conflict agreed to principles aimed at ending the fighting.

The optimism expressed by many participants immediately after the conference now seems misplaced. In an interview with yesterday's Independent on Sunday, Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, who is widely seen as the instigator of the Balkans conflict, indicated that he intended to ignore the commitments he had agreed to in the talks.

He made it plain that he was not planning to change his policies: 'We have a policy for peace,' he said. 'If anything stays the same, it's that. All our efforts in recent months have been oriented towards peace. I will not allow anything in my policies to be against peace.'

Letters, page 16

(Photograph omitted)

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