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Muslim Leader Orders Counteroffensive in Bosnia

By CompiledKurt Shillinger / March 9, 1993



THE commander of Bosnian Muslim forces yesterday ordered his units in eastern Bosnia to defend the besieged Muslim settlements of Srebrnica and Konjevic Polje.

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The order to attack by Bosnian commander Sefer Halilovic appeared to put a formal end to a unilateral cease-fire declared several weeks ago by government forces. It came amid an upsurge of sniper fire around Sarajevo, the capital, and heavy shelling in Srebrnica in eastern Bosnia.

Halilovic's order, broadcast on Bosnian radio, said all available troops of his Army's 2nd Corps, based in Tuzla, should move into the Cerska and Konjevic Polje area. Serb forces overran Cerska last week, forcing thousands of residents to flee, and have been shelling Konjevic Polje.

United Nations peacekeeping forces and aid officials have expressed concern for the safety of thousands of Muslims trapped in the region, which Serbs have blockaded since the civil war in Bosnia began last spring. To help relieve the situation, six United States cargo planes dropped more than 46 tons of supplies over Srebrnica early yesterday in the eighth airdrop to eastern Bosnia. The airdrops have so far dumped about 210 tons of military rations and 5.4 tons of medical supplies.

Gen. Philippe Morillon, commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia, was due to meet Serb and Muslim military commanders to discuss a cease-fire around Srebrnica. He wants to open a safe corridor from the town to evacuate any of its 60,000 people, including refugees from fallen Muslim settlements, who want or need to leave.

The Bosnian Serbs insist, however, that any evacuation of Muslims from Srebrnica must be matched by a similar measure to allow Serbs to leave the Muslim-held town of Tuzla, to the north. EC Tests Tougher Line

European Community foreign ministers, meeting yesterday, said they were ready to pressure Serb leaders to adopt a peace plan for Bosnia but would not approve new sanctions.

Instead they sought to close loopholes in a trade embargo to increase the international isolation of the Serbs. Peace mediator Lord David Owen briefed the 12 EC foreign ministers on the protracted peace talks. To sway the Serbs to adopt the peace plan, the ministers of France, Britain, and Germany said the time had come for more diplomatic pressure.

France's Roland Dumas called on Britain, Russia, and the US to "intervene and put more pressure on the three parties so that the plan can be accepted and signed." He said France would apply similar pressure.

The EC ministers considered whether to post international monitors in countries suspected of breaking the trade embargo against Yugoslavia and seek stricter surveillance along the Danube River, through which embargoed goods have reached Serbia.

Meanwhile, Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic said yesterday he did not believe the international community would send troops against Serb forces in Bosnia. He was responding to a statement by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali Sunday that the UN must be prepared to send troops against Serbian forces if the Serbs failed to agree to a peace plan for Bosnia. Bosnians Huddle on Talks

Leaders of Bosnia's Muslims and Serbs, returning from peace talks in New York, consulted supporters yesterday on whether to stand firm or make concessions to reach a peace agreement.

Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was expected to meet Serbia's hard-line nationalist President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade before going to the headquarters of his self-proclaimed Serbian Republic in Bosnia at Pale, near Sarajevo.

Both Serbs and Muslims have refused to agree to a key part of the Vance-Owen peace plan, a map dividing Bosnia into 10 semi-autonomous regions roughly along ethnic lines. The Muslims say the map gives the Serbs too much land; the Serbs counter that they will not get enough. Mr. Karadzic said he believed there was a possibility of dividing Bosnia into two parts, one for Serbs and the other for Muslims and Croats.