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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Clashes Follow Papal Visit to Bosnia

SARAJEVO -- The United Nations said Monday fighting flared between Serb and Moslem-led forces in Bosnia after Pope John Paul appealed for reconciliation in a historic visit to former Yugoslavia.

The Moslem-led Bosnian army traded intense artillery and mortar fire with Bosnian Serb forces on battlefronts in central and northern Bosnia in the past 24 hours, U.N. military spokesman Commander Eric Chaperon told reporters in Sarajevo.

The Bosnian army had provoked the shelling duels around the northern town of Brcko along a vital Serb supply corridor, Chaperon said.

Moslem-controlled Sarajevo radio said the Bosnian army had inflicted heavy losses on the Serbs but the report could not be confirmed by U.N. peacekeepers.

In Sarajevo, Bosnian Serbs defied a United Nations-mandated no-weapons zone around the Bosnian capital Sunday when it fired a 120mm mortar bomb east of the city, Chaperon said.

The fighting followed impassioned pleas for peace and tolerance made by Pope John Paul during his visit to Croatia over the weekend.

The 74-year-old pontiff, looking frail and walking with a stick during his first visit to former Yugoslavia, condemned ultra-nationalism and warned rival factions not to use religion to wage war.

"No, it is not lawful to attribute to religion the phenomenon of nationalistic intolerance which is raging in the region," the Pope said Sunday at an outdoor mass in Zagreb.

The pontiff called off a planned visit to Sarajevo last week because Bosnia's Orthodox Christian Serbs, who see the Vatican as favoring their adversaries, refused to guarantee his safety.

In London, Britain, stepping up European pressure against the United States, said Monday it will withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Bosnia if the arms embargo is lifted.

In reply, U.S. Rep. Frank McCloskey, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the Europeans of failing in leadership by trying to block President Clinton's move to allow arms to Bosnian Muslims. U.S. President Bill Clinton has said he will seek an end to the embargo, perhaps lifting it unilaterally, if Bosnia's Serbs refuse to accept an international peace plan by October 15.

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic criticized Britain and France for threatening to withdraw their U.N. peacekeeping contingents if the United States lifts its embargo.

"That's blackmail," he told a German newsweekly. He said that if given the choice he would rather have supplies of weapons than the continued presence of the U.N. peacekeeping force in his country.

European Union ministers are hoping to force Bosnian Serbs to reverse their opposition to the peace plan by supporting Serbian-led Yugoslavia's break with its former proteges.

The ministers, meeting in Germany over the weekend, backed a plan by the major powers to offer an easing of sanctions against rump Yugoslavia -- Serbia and Montenegro -- in return for its agreement to the posting of more than 130 international monitors to verify its blockade against Bosnian Serbs.