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With tens of thousands of Croatian army troops poised to attack rebel Serb-held territory, U.S. and European diplomats pressed both sides to avert a war that could ignite the entire region.

Yet no progress was reported after a seven-hour meeting Thursday in Geneva between Croatian government and rebel Serb representatives. The talks were aimed at averting a resumption of their 1991 war, which left 10,000 people dead and one-third of the country in rebel hands.Ivic Pasalic, a Croatian government representative, said afterward that the rebel Serbs rejected a proposal for a "peaceful reintegration" of Serb-held land into Croatia.

"The Serbs plainly refused," Pasalic said. "The only progress is that talks took place."

Both sides had sent only a low-ranking delegation with few negotiating powers, and U.N. officials described the event as "talks about talks."

U.N. special envoy Yasushi Akashi warned earlier that if the talks failed, war in Croatia would probably follow quickly.

"All of us have to make desperate efforts that the situation does not degenerate into full-scale war," Akashi told Associated Press Television in Zagreb. "I hope the spirit of mutual compromise and flexibility will prevail, but there is no guarantee."

Croatia has mobilized 100,000 soldiers for a possible multi-pronged attack on the Croatian Serb rebels, who have 50,000 men primed for battle, U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness said Wednesday.

Military police were stopping vehicles at the southern outskirts of Zagreb Thursday, hunting Croatian army draft dodgers.