Bosnian leader to boycott talks to protest killing

January 10, 1993|By New York Times News Service

PARIS -- Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said yesterda ,, that he would not take part in peace talks scheduled to resume in Geneva today to protest the assassination of a senior member of his government by a Serbian soldier in Sarajevo on Friday.

But Mr. Izetbegovic also made it clear that the Muslim-led Bosnian government was not withdrawing from the peace talks, which are being co-sponsored by the United Nations and the European Community, and he left open the possibility that he might still travel to Geneva today.

Despite the confusion over Mr. Izetbegovic's plans to take part in the talks, it was clear that the killing was a major blow to the uphill effort to find a diplomatic solution to the fighting.

The peace talks among Bosnian Muslim, Serbian and Croatian leaders, which are being led by Cyrus Vance, a U.N. special envoy, and Lord Owen, a European Community mediator, began last weekend and were suspended after two days for further consultations.

Mr. Izetbegovic, who stopped here after meetings in New York and Washington, said that Bosnia's condition for returning to the peace talks was a clarification of the right of U.N. peacekeeping forces to use their weapons to defend convoys that they are meant to protest.

He said the assassination of Hakija Turajlic, a Bosnian deputy prime minister, as he sat inside a French armored personnel carrier bearing the U.N. flag and insignia illustrated the need to redefine the mandate of the peacekeeping force.

"When I talk of defending, I mean defending with arms, with weapons," he said. "I am sure this will be one of the conditions for resumption of our presence in the negotiations in Geneva." He specified no other conditions.

A group of hard-line political and military leaders who control the Sarajevo government announced in Belgrade yesterday that they had ordered the Bosnian delegation at the peace negotiations in Geneva to boycott the next round of discussions.

When asked whether he would attend the peace talks today, Mr. Izetbegovic replied: "I have just received information that the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina has decided to suspend its presence at the negotiations in Geneva as a sign of protest at the assassination of Hakija Turajlic."

He added: "The negotiations are cut off, and I am not sure at this moment of my presence in Geneva."

The three warring parties have been presented with a long-term peace plan composed of two documents -- a cease-fire plan and a political agreement -- as well as a map reorganizing the former Yugoslav republic into 10 highly autonomous provinces under a loose central government.

Only the Bosnian Croat leader, Mate Boban, signed both documents earlier last week, while the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, demanded time for consultations. Mr. Izetbegovic accepted the two documents, but reportedly has reservations about the map.

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