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Bosnians Reportedly on Brink Of Signing New Peace Agreement

The Washington Post

ZAGREB, Croatia

Bosnia's three warring factions are reportedly preparing to sign an agreement in principle Tuesday to end all hostilities, assure the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian relief supplies throughout the country and open up all prisoner camps.

According to Bosnian government and other sources here in the Croatian capital and in Geneva, the future agreement would clear the way for a resumption of the Geneva peace talks by putting off the key issue of dividing up territory that led to the breakdown of the negotiations Sept. 1. The new accord also would relieve immediately the suffering of millions of displaced civilians as winter approaches.

Representatives of the Bosnian Serbs and Muslims signed a joint declaration in Geneva Thursday that was nearly identical to one signed Tuesday between the Muslims and Croats. International mediators David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg hope to round out the two agreements into an all-Bosnia settlement and persuade the leaders of the three Bosnian sides to sign it Tuesday in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital.

It was not immediately clear, however, that the new agreement for a cease-fire and other limited confidence-building steps would have any better chance of being implemented than scores of others that have been signed and ignored over the past 17 months of fighting in Bosnia.

Thursday's agreement between the Bosnian Muslims and Serbs was signed by the speaker of the Bosnian Serbs' self-styled parliament, Momcilo Krajisnik, and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who also signed a joint declaration Tuesday with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, acting on behalf of the Bosnian Croat faction.

Gaidar Returns to Yeltsin Cabinet

Newsday

MOSCOW

President Boris N. Yeltsin Thursday said he would return to his Cabinet Yegor Gaidar, the architect of Russia's "shock therapy" economic reforms.

Gaidar, who was acting prime minister until conservative legislators forced Yeltsin to dump him last year, will now be first deputy prime minister.

In a surprise announcement to reporters while visiting a division of elite Interior Ministry troops, Yeltsin said that Gaidar, 37, had agreed to accept the appointment, which will be made officially Saturday.

The decision indicates that liberal reformers may have gained the upper hand in an internal power struggle that had divided Yeltsin's Cabinet and threatened to weaken the president in his ongoing battle with conservatives in Russia's parliament.

Gaidar will replace Oleg Lobov as first deputy prime minister. Lobov, who is also economics minister, had criticized the government's economic reforms and had proposed his own program to stabilize the economy, including giving his own ministry substantially more control over the economy and making wholesale changes in the way Russian enterprises are being privatized. It was unclear whether Lobov would keep the economics post.

At first Yeltsin accepted Lobov's program, but that infuriated other Cabinet members, who said it would undercut the reforms and return Russia to Soviet-style central economic planning. Last week Yeltsin told his feuding ministers that they should work out the conflict for themselves and come to some sort of compromise.

The return of Gaidar suggests no compromise at all. Instead, it is a hugely symbolic action for Yeltsin, who was forced to dump the young economist in December in a bitter power struggle with Russia's Congress of People's Deputies.

Some Islamic Groups Dislike Pact

The Baltimore Sun

BEIT LAHIA, Israeli-Occupied Gaza Strip

Beneath a poster of a bloody dagger, Mohammed Mahmoud Tantawi said Thursday that the violence against Israel will not end. If a new Palestinian government intervenes, he said, smiling, "we welcome a fight with them, too."

The biggest threat to the autonomy plan reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization is violence from men like Tantawi, one of about 1,000 who chanted against Israel and the PLO at a rally Thursday by the Islamic Jihad opposition group.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat Thursday urged a summit conference in Yemen with all opposition groups to avoid civil war when Israel turns over the Gaza Strip to Palestinian control in three months.

Hamas, the largest opposition group inside the occupied territories, apparently already has made the pledge. A PLO official in Gaza confirmed that Hamas gave its agreement Thursday morning not to fight the PLO. In Tunis, the PLO released an agreement signed by Hamas and the PLO to respect a "code of honor" not to fight.

In numerous recent interviews, Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip acknowledged that they have lost much public support and conceded that opposition could be crushed by the most powerful PLO faction, Fatah.

But there are other splinter groups, and rebels from the mainstream, who are ready to fight against the new agreement, whether that fight is against Israelis or the PLO. They say they will not stop attacks against Israeli targets.

"The intifada is not over," said Tantawi, a former policeman in Gaza. "It will continue until we get our territories back."

Old opponents of Arafat -- Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- have been clamoring this week for such an event. Thursday, they were joined by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran, who is considered to influence Islamic groups. He promised that "Palestinian fists will keep hitting the heads of usurpers."

Such outside voices have only a muted effect inside the occupied territories. But Arafat does have to worry that his peace-keeping moves do not outpace his supporters, who are accustomed to decades of avowed resistance to Israel.

Arafat has hinted -- but not openly said -- that the intifada will continue until Israeli troops completely vacate the West Bank. Total withdrawal is not contemplated under the agreement for at least five years -- if at all.