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Christopher Sees Consensus Emerging on Action in Bosnia

By Norman Kempster
Los Angeles Times


Secretary of State Warren Christopher conceded Monday that he has not yet won the approval of any European nations for specific military measures in Bosnia-Herzegovina, although he said he has found a growing consensus that firm action must be taken if the Bosnian Serbs fail to live up to a peace agreement signed in Athens.

Talking to reporters following meetings with British, Spanish and Greek officials, Christopher said the Europeans share his skepticism that the Bosnian Serbs will comply fully with the peace accord mediated by former Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and former British Foreign Secretary Lord Owen.

"They are all of a common mind," he said of the European leaders. "We are hopeful that the signatures on the Vance-Owen agreement will prove effective, but we're all quite skeptical and we're not going to be deterred" from finding some way to stop the aggression.

Under pressure from his patrons in Serbia and the threat of Western military intervention, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic signed the peace plan Sunday. He had long rejected the proposal because it denied Bosnia's Serbs land links they sought with Serbia and Serb-held areas of Croatia.

But other Bosnian Serb leaders have questioned the Vance-Owen plan and are hinting that the self-styled Bosnian Serb Parliament will reject the plan when it meets Wednesday. A week ago, that 77-member body unanimously rejected the plan.

"There should be no compromises with anybody! We are not going to take a step backward. ... No ratification!" radical Serb Deputy Nedeljko Rasolda vowed on a Bosnian radio call-in program.

Karadzic admitted that the Parliament would be a hard sell. "We will have a very long and very hard session, but I still hope a majority will vote for it," he said. "Maybe they will make conditions but still approve."

Karadzic said he would resign if the Parliament rejects the peace plan again.

Fresh clashes erupted hours after Karadzic signed the pact, and the fighting continued into Monday, mainly in central and eastern Bosnia.

The Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported that Muslim forces launched attacks on Bosnian Serbs south of Sarajevo and around the besieged eastern town of Srebrenica--supposed to be a demilitarized zone under U.N. protection since last month.

Muslim forces also launched artillery attacks on Serbian positions around the Bihac front in the northwest, Tanjug said. But Croatian radio blamed the Serbs for extensive attacks in the area.

Another wave of Muslim refugees was expelled from the northwest region Monday, showing the drive by Bosnian Serbs to "cleanse" non-Serbs from captured land goes on despite the possible peace deal.

The refugees, about 230 men, women and children, were brought from the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka in northwestern Bosnia in five buses and transferred to eight U.N. trucks at the Serbian line for the ride into Travnik, which is controlled by Croats and Muslims.

Christopher has not yet made a single convert to President Clinton's package of military measures for Bosnia, believed to include allied air strikes on Serbian artillery and other military positions and relaxation of the U.N. arms embargo on all of the former Yugoslav federation to permit the shipment of arms to the Muslim-led Bosnian government.

In a joint statement issued after their Monday meeting, Christopher and Spanish Foreign Minister Javier Solana said they "agreed to develop a common position on stronger measures to be taken if the Serbs fail to implement the peace settlement. Several options are under consideration, including military steps."

That was slightly weaker than a similarly worded communique issued after Christopher's Sunday meeting with British Prime Minister John Major, which said the two countries "are developing" a common position. Such wording indicates the work is a bit further along than with Spain, where there was only an agreement to begin developing such a position.

But Christopher said Monday that even with Britain, "Nothing was ruled in and nothing was ruled out."

At the same time, U.S. officials said Christopher has broadened his consultations to include plans for a U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping force to be deployed in Bosnia if the Vance-Owen plan is implemented.