Sarajevo yesterday: 'People were torn apart. Limbs were ripped off bodies': War to intensify

THE SARAJEVO shell attack was the latest sign that, 22 months into the Bosnian war, the conflict is growing increasingly desperate and bloody. Since the virtual collapse of the Geneva peace talks last autumn, Serbs, Croats and Muslims have all emphasised their determination to achieve by fighting what they cannot by negotiation.

For the Serbs, a military solution seems to be the best way forward, because the Serbian economy is rapidly deteriorating and there is little prospect that the United Nations will lift economic sanctions on Serbia. They must strike while they still have the power to wrap up the war.

They believe that the United States and Germany have encouraged the Muslims to continue fighting and take a tough line in the peace talks, and that this means no negotiated settlement will satisfy Serbian interests. One recent sign of the expanded Serbian war effort was the decision to mobilise Bosnian-Serb refugees for frontline service.

For the Croats, more fighting is the only way to reverse the steady tide of Muslim victories in central Bosnia. The Muslims have held the upper hand against the Croats since their joint alliance against the Serbs broke down last April.

In recent weeks Croatia has poured several thousand soldiers into central and southern Bosnia in support of its Bosnian-Croat clients. European Union foreign ministers were due tomorrow to consider imposing sanctions on Croatia for its war role in Bosnia, but it is likely that yesterday's attack in Sarajevo will lift the pressure on the Croats.

For the Muslims the war has to continue because the only peace deal on offer represents in their eyes a capitulation to aggression. It would effectively dismember Bosnia as a state, allow the formation of a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia, and deprive the Muslims of towns where they were a majority before the ethnic expulsions and killings began in April 1992.

The Muslims have little faith that the UN and EU will put sufficient pressure on the Serbs and Croats to produce a just settlement. They also believe that, despite superior Serbian fire power, they are not so weak on the battlefield that they need to sue for peace.

Each side therefore has strong reasons to continue the war. There is every chance that, as the winter snows melt away, the fighting in Bosnia will get even worse.

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