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Bosnians, Croats Chip at Serb-Held Territory

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Government troops inched forward in central Bosnia on Sunday, chipping away at rebel-held territory while Serbs struggled to hold their ground and cope with a sudden flood of refugees.

Serbs fought back on other fronts, firing artillery that killed three people in the U.N.-declared “safe areas” of Tuzla and Sarajevo.

In Russia, Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev said he and U.S. officials narrowed their differences in talks on a new approach to ending four years of war in former Yugoslav republics. Both sides are pressing for a meeting among the presidents of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia.

Offensives by allied Croatian and Muslim-led Bosnian government forces in southern and western Bosnia appeared intended to keep the Serbs off balance.

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Fighting continued Sunday. Bosnian army troops were taking ground around Donji Vakuf and appeared to be trying to cut a main road, said a U.N. spokesman in central Bosnia, Maj. Greig Thomson.

Donji Vakuf would be a steppingstone to the bigger town of Jajce, and ultimately to the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka. Sources said the Bosnian army was moving slowly, apparently meeting stiff resistance.

Croats also opened an offensive across the Bosnian border toward the Serb-held town of Trebinje. Serbs around Trebinje responded by unleashing an artillery barrage on the Dubrovnik area.

More than 100,000 Serbian refugees have flooded out of Croatia and western Bosnia, and tens of thousands headed to Serbia. But the Serbian government decided over the weekend not to allow any more soldiers from the defeated Croatian Serb army to cross the border, leaving them in Bosnia where they could bolster rebel forces.

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The result was a backup of 5,000 cars, trucks and tractors on the approach to Serbia stretching for up to 12 miles, said Fernando Del Mundo, a spokesman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Women were refusing to cross the border without their husbands, he said.


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