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Serbs Promise to Reconsider Rejection of U.N. Peace Plan

By Stanley Meisler
Los Angeles Times


The all but moribund Bosnian peace plan suddenly revived Thursday as the Bosnian Serbs promised to reconsider their rejection of the plan and agreed to meet with their antagonists in weekend peace talks in Greece.

Fred Eckhard, spokesmen for peace mediators Cyrus R. Vance of the United Nations and Lord Owen of the European community, announced the resumption of talks Saturday in Athens, and hinted that he believed the Serbian change of mood came out of fear of some form of American military intervention.

He said it was "impossible to separate these things" and that Vance and Owen had continually drawn the attention of the Bosnian Serbs to "the rising level of frustration in Washington" over the failure of U.N. Security Council condemnations and sanctions to stop Serbian aggression against the Muslims in Bosnia.

Pressured by leaders in Serbia, about to feel the brunt of toughened U.N. sanctions, the Bosnian Serbs announced that their self-styled Parliament would reassemble Wednesday to reconsider its rejection of the Vance-Owen peace plan. The plan, which would divide Bosnia into nine autonomous provinces -- three each dominated by the Serbs, Croats and Muslims plus an integrated capital in Sarajevo -- has been accepted by the other parties in the war, Bosnia's Muslims and Croats.

At the United Nations a few hours later, Eckhard announced that all the prominent players in the Bosnian civil war had agreed to attend the Athens meeting. The purpose of the session is clearly to ease the doubts of the Bosnian Serbs before they vote inside Bosnia a few days later.

But Mohammed Sacirbey, Bosnia's ambassador to the United Nations, derided what he called the sudden "180-degree turn" by the Bosnian Serbs "to avoid military action." He said his government would distrust Serbian intentions even if they finally succumbed to all the pressure and signed the Vance-Owens plan.

"Concrete steps need to be taken beyond signatures," he said.

Eckhard said Vance and Owens hope to persuade the Serbs that their security would be served by a proposed demilitarized corridor connecting Serbia with the Serb-dominated provinces of Bosnia. The corridor would evidently function much like the road that once cut across East Germany to connect Berlin with West Germany.

The spokesman also told a news conference that Vance, a former U.S. secretary of state, and Owen, a former British foreign secretary, also planned to outline a system of internationally guaranteed roadways and railways throughout Bosnia that would be open to all traffic. Local police along these routes would not even have the right to issue traffic tickets.

The leaders of all factions of the civil war plus the leaders of the most concerned other governments in the former Yugoslavia would come to Athens, Eckhard said. They include Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban, Serbian President Slobodan Milosovic, and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.

Eckhard, while refusing to characterize it as a last chance, described the meeting in Athens as "the next logical step forward in a long, arduous negotiation." He also said it was "the first concrete development" since the Bosnian Serbs were urged by the leaders of Serbia and Montenegro to accept the Vance-Owens plans. That plea was rejected by the Bosnian Serbs at their parliamentary meeting Monday.

The Vance-Owens plan would require the Bosnian Serbs to give up almost half the territory they have conquered in a civil war that has lasted a year and with more than 100,000 people killed or missing.