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Britons kill 2 Croats after convoy attack

British troops guarding an aid convoy unleashed a volley of cannon fire Friday that killed two Croat fighters _ the first confirmed deaths in Bosnia at the hands of U.N. peacekeepers.

The attack in the village of Novi Bila was the second against the convoy by Croat forces that face increasing attacks by Muslims, their former allies against Serbs.

Lord David Owen, the European Community mediator, said principal figures in the Yugoslav crisis were invited to a meeting next week in Geneva.

Col. Alastair Duncan, British commander, said a new cease-fire was in place in central Bosnia to allow the remainder of the mammoth 500-vehicle relief convoy, organized mostly by Muslims, to proceed north to the government-held town of Tuzla.

Sniper fire killed a convoy driver on Friday, and British soldiers reported that Croat troops had seized about 30 drivers and were holding them hostage.

Most of the convoy stayed behind at Croat-held Novi Travnik, but some lead trucks pushed forward early Friday.

A U.N. spokesman said a British Warrior armored vehicle fired its rapid-fire 30-mm cannon at attacking Croats, killing two of them, after firing two warning bursts.

In other developments Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei A. Kozyrev said Friday that his government is ready in principle to send peacekeeping troops to defend safe areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina but will not do so until the U.N. Security Council clarifies the duties of the international force.