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Croatia Concludes Military Alliance with Bosnian Federation

March 7, 1995

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ The new military alliance of Croatia and a Bosnian federation has put more pressure on rebel Serbs and nudged the Balkans closer to an explosion of all-out war after months of relative quiet.

Croatian state television announced late Monday that Croatia and the U.S.-supported federation of Bosnian Croats and Muslims had agreed to form a joint military headquarters.

The accord enables Croatian troops and forces of the Bosnia federation to aid each other against rebel Serbs who have seized substantial parts of both countries.

It is unclear how effective the new alliance will be. A Croat-Muslim federation in Bosnia has existed on paper for a year but has implemented few of its political and military provisions.

The latest alliance comes as two key deadlines loom closer: March 31, when U.N. peacekeepers in Croatia are to begin leaving on orders of President Franjo Tudjman, and May 1, when an already tattered cease-fire in Bosnia is due to expire.

Fighting in Croatia is virtually certain to resume if the 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers leave, and increased warfare is probable in Bosnia once the truce there ends.

International negotiators redoubled their peace efforts Monday. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke met Tudjman and Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Zagreb, and U.N. and European envoys met with President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia in Belgrade.

The Croatian government, impatient to retake control over the one-third of Croatia captured by rebel Serbs in the 1991 war, claims that U.N. peacekeepers stationed there for three years have merely enforced the division.

A U.N. official said Monday that Gen. Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serbs, has suggested that U.N. troops in Bosnia’s eastern Muslim enclaves would have to leave if Croatia forced its peacekeepers out.

International negotiators are pressuring Milosevic to recognize Croatia and Bosnia, dealing a blow to the dream of rebel Serbs in those two countries of joining the territories they hold with Serbia proper.

But Milosevic has said he will not even discuss recognition unless punishing international sanctions imposed on Serbia for inciting Serb rebels in Bosnia are lifted first.

In Bosnia, Serbs on Monday carried out their threat to ban land convoys to Sarajevo for a week. Air supplies, which account for about 50 percent of the city’s needs, were unaffected.

The Serbs want to increase their take of the supplies from 23 percent to 30 percent, said Kris Janowski of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Snipers opened fire again Monday in Sarajevo, killing one man and wounding another man and a 14-year-old boy.

Bosnian Serbs on Monday also brought espionage charges against nine Muslims affiliated with Merhamet, a private Muslim charity. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to death.

And five foreign aid workers, including American Johnathan Knapp, remained in Bosnian Serb custody for the third day Monday. The Serbs have accused them of helping the Muslim-led Bosnian army.