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Serbs, Muslims Grapple for Military Edge While Talking Peace With PM-Yugoslavia-Crucial

June 7, 1994

Serbs, Muslims Grapple for Military Edge While Talking Peace With PM-Yugoslavia-Crucial Front, Bjt

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Serb and Muslim-led government soldiers battled along a bitterly contested front line today as their leaders bargained over terms of a possible cease- fire.

U.N. observers reported heavy shelling along a 35-mile north-to-south line between Gradacac and Ribnica in northern Bosnia. More than 1,100 explosions were reported.

Bosnian Serbs also reported new shelling of Brcko, the key point in a narrow corridor linking Serb holdings in Croatia and Bosnia with Serb- dominated Yugoslavia.

The fighting came as U.N. officials in Geneva pressed Serbs, on one side, and Muslims and their Croat allies on the other side to agree on the length of a cease-fire for the entire republic.

Serbs, who have taken control of about 70 percent of Bosnia in two years of war, want an unlimited agreement which could help them cement their gains. The Muslim-led Bosnian government and Croats, who recently have been nibbling away at Serb holdings, have been reluctant to discuss any cease-fire.

After days of frustration, the top U.N. official in former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, got both sides talking Monday in Geneva. But neither side could agree on the length of any truce.

There were 1,143 detonations today along the Gradacac-Ribnica line, U.N. spokesman Maj. Eric Chaperon reported.

Bosnian radio reported that tank, mortar and howitzer shells rained down on Gradacac, a government-held town along the southern edge of the Serbs’ corridor, beginning at 4 a.m.

Serbs accused government forces of shelling the town of Modrica from Gradacac for the fourth time in recent days.

The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA and Yugoslavia’s Tanjug agency reported government attacks on nearby Doboj, Ozren and Vozuca. They said those assaults were repelled.

Tanjug also reported that Croatian forces, located north of the corridor, fired rockets at Brcko late Monday. There was no immediate word on casualties, but the report said seven people have been killed and 40 wounded in previous rocket attacks.

The rest of Bosnia was reported to be relatively quiet, although officials reported a skirmish late Monday between Bosnian Serb and government forces in Gorazde, a Muslim enclave in eastern Bosnia.

It was the Bosnian Serbs’ refusal to completely leave a 1.9-mile zone around Gorazde - as they had promised six weeks ago - that delayed the Geneva talks.

The talks were to begin last Thursday, but the Bosnian government refused to start until all Serb combatants were gone. It announced Monday morning that it was satisfied of a complete pullout.

About 200,000 people have been killed or left missing in Bosnia’s war. It began in April 1992, when Serbs rebelled against a vote by Muslims and Croats to secede from Yugoslavia.

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