Muslims ponder peace plan

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The Independent Online
BELGRADE - Bosnian Serb and Muslim forces fought battles in eastern Bosnia yesterday as the republic's Muslim-led presidency met to decide whether to accept an international peace plan, writes Tony Barber.

The Bosnian Serb army accused the Muslims of attacking Serbian positions around Vlasenica, a town that commands a vital road linking Serbian- controlled north-eastern Bosnia with the Serbian administrative headquarters at Pale, near Sarajevo. Muslim commanders ordered a full-scale assault of Vlasenica on Monday.

Bosnia's Muslim president, Alija Izetbegovic, was trying to persuade his colleagues in the republic's leadership to accept the peace plan drawn up by Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, the international mediators. The plan calls for Bosnia to be divided into 10 autonomous provinces, all of which except Sarajevo would be dominated by one ethnic group: Serbs; Croats; or Muslims.

Serbia's leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is to discuss the plan in Paris today with President Francois Mitterrand, who is regarded in Belgrade as somewhat less anti-Serbian than other Western leaders. Western governments say they may tighten sanctions on the Serbs if they do not accept the plan.

Meanwhile, Yugoslav river-barge crews decided yesterday to blockade the Danube from midnight, said their leader, Milovan Petrovic. He said the blockade of all shipping on one of Europe's main waterways would last until the Romanian authorities lifted their restrictions on Yugoslav shipping imposed as part of UN sanctions.