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GUNS SHUT DOWN DIPLOMACY AS BLASTS RATTLE SARAJEVO

Explosions and gunfire rattled Sarajevo Tuesday, and fighting wracked front lines to the north of the Bosnian capital. A government ban on public gatherings in the capital took effect.

The city's airport remained closed because rebel Serbs refused to promise not to shoot at planes, preventing a visit by international mediators. That illustrated the dominance of military activity over diplomacy as time runs out on a tattered four-month cease-fire.Several heavy explosions reverberated through central Sarajevo overnight and early Tuesday. Small-arms and machine-gun fire rattled around one of the capital's most tense front lines at the city's Jewish cemetery. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The United Nations has blamed recent mortar attacks on the city center on the Serbs and accused them of targeting civilians with heavy weapons banned from the Sarajevo area for more than a year.

On Monday, the government banned public assembly in Sarajevo, a precaution against a repeat of a February 1994 attack, when 68 people were killed at a market by a mortar blast.

The ban would be most noticeable at the city's markets, and a trip through town this afternoon showed some of them deserted and some operating normally. It appeared the government had not begun enforcing the ban.

The airport, Sarajevo's lifeline to the outside world, has been closed since the Serb fire hit a U.S. cargo plane Saturday.

The airport closure prevented mediators from the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany from holding talks.