SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ U.N. peacekeepers deployed around a mental hospital in a central Bosnian combat zone today to protect about 100 patients, including some near death.

Norwegian and Swedish troops rushed to the hosital in Bakovici, a village 20 miles west of Sarajevo, and helped evacuate staff members after heavy shelling nearby.

Many of the hospital's patients were too ill to move, said Cmdr. Idesbald van Biesebroeck, a U.N. spokesman in Sarajevo. He said a unit of about 20 peacekeepers and medical personnel would remain at the hospital until they felt the patients' care could be assured.

Van Biesebroeck said the peacekeepers negotiated a cease-fire between Bosnian Croat militia forces and the Muslim-led government army.

The two sides, formerly allies against Bosnian Serb nationalists who now control most of Bosnia's territory, have been battling over land in central Bosnia for months.

The hospital is not far from another one near Fojnica where 230 mental patients were left without care for three days in July when government forces took the area from Croats.

Staff members who abandoned that hospital returned with peacekeepers to find the patients, mostly children and adolescents, languishing in horrid conditions. Four children died.

Van Biesebroeck said Croat-Muslim fighting also flared around Croat-held Kiseljak and in villages near Vares, a town north of Sarajevo that was recently captured by government forces.

He said artillery shells landed within 100 yards of the peacekeepers' base in Kiseljak, and all the town's stores were closed.

In a bid to ease Muslim-Croat fighting, Croatia's foreign minister, Mate Granic, flew to Sarajevo today to confer with officials of Bosnia's government. He is the highest-ranking Croatian official to visit the besieged city during the 19-month-old war.

The war started when Serbs rebelled at Bosnia's secession from Yugoslavia. Up to 200,000 people are dead or missing, and more than 2 million have been made homeless.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin also was in Sarajevo to mediate. Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias reportedly planned to visit on Saturday.

Bosnia's Muslim-led government has accused Croatia of encouraging Bosnian Croat nationalists in their fight to carve their own state out of southwestern Bosnia, possibly to merge later with Croatia.

Serbs seek to merge the Bosnian territory they control with Serbia, the dominant state in what is left of Yugoslavia. Bosnia's government has resisted partition plans, saying divisions proposed so far would unjustly reward Serb aggression against Muslims.

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic met Thursday with members of his army's 7th Muslim Brigade, which was accused of looting and burning houses during the capture of Vares.

''I congratulate you on extraordinary successes,'' Izetbegovic said. ''But every mistake we make is magnified 10 times. Because of this, we must be careful and watch what we are doing. We have to make as few mistakes as we can.''