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BOSNIANS WILL BOYCOTT PEACE TALKS

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Demanding concessions from Serb rebels, the government said Sunday its foreign minister will boycott talks on a U.S. peace plan this week in New York.

The government made the announcement as state TV reported more gains by the Bosnian army against Serbs in the north and northwest.A government statement read on state radio didn't name a replacement for Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey at the talks Tuesday at the United Nations with the foreign ministers of Croatia and Serb-led Yugoslavia.

The meeting was meant to build on a peace plan agreed to on Sept. 8 in Geneva to split Bosnia roughly in half between the Serbs and a Muslim-Croat confederation.

Recent offensives by government and Croat forces have stripped large chunks of territory from the Serbs, and some Bosnians think they can win more on the battlefield than at the negotiating table.

The statement, issued by President Alija Izetbegovic's office, said without elaboration that "the Serbian side has not positively responded to our constructive suggestions" regarding implementation of the peace plan.

Sacirbey had informed U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke of the decision the statement said. White House spokeswoman Ginny Terzano called the announcement "part of the ups and downs of shuttle diplomacy," and said Washington still hopes to hold the meeting.

Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic said the government was not satisfied with guarantees that Bosnia would remain a single country. The Serb rebels have said they want to join the parts of Bosnia they control with Serbia.

"Some of our demands have not been met," Silajdzic said.

The Muslim-led Sarajevo government has demanded that the Serb military leadership in Banja Luka to be removed and dialogue opened with moderate Serbs in that northern Bosnian Serb strong-hold.

The government also wants Sarajevo's siege lifted, including free movement for all civilians and full restoration of utilities. It also needs a secure corridor linking the Bosnian capital with Gorazde, the only Muslim enclave in eastern Bosnia.

Before Sunday's announcement was made, Bosnian leaders issued conflicting signals on whether they were prepared to reach a cease-fire or continue their a military offensive in the northwest.

Sacirbey said recently that the government's military campaign should be replaced by peace negotiations. Silajdzic, on the other hand, has said offensives should continue until an agreement is signed and the rebels demilitarize Banja Luka.

On Sunday, Bosnian government forces advanced in the Ozren mountains, a 30-mile-long range north of Doboj, an important northern road and rail junction north of Sarajevo, state TV claimed. The report said government forces killed 25 Serb soldiers and wounded scores, capturing large amounts of weapons. The United Nations said the fighting there was continuing.