Bosnian Serb leader accepts peace plan But Parliament may reject it

January 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

GENEVA -- Hours after he seemed to have torpedoed an international plan for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the leader of Bosnia's ethnic Serbs reversed himself last night and said he accepted the proposed accord.

Much work needs to be done before any agreement is completed, and many previous accords have unraveled.

But the mediators viewed the endorsement by the Bosnian Serbs' leader, Dr. Radovan Karadzic, as a critically important step.

Dr. Karadzic told reporters last night that he needed "a few days" to gain approval of the plan from the Parliament of the self-declared Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that he was sure that, "We are going to approve it in our assembly."

But Biljana Plavsic, vice president of the republic, asked by a British television interviewer if Parliament will accept the deal, responded: "No. Absolutely no."

A joint United Nations-European Community negotiating team headed by Cyrus R. Vance and Lord Owen has been working to arrange a settlement among the belligerents.

The two other parties, the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government and Bosnia's ethnic Croats, already had endorsed all or part ofthe agreement, leaving the Bosnian Serbs as the holdout.

Dr. Karadzic insisted on the creation of a Bosnian Serb state within a reconstituted republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mr. Vance and Lord Owen rejected that demand from the beginning, but revised the plan slightly to declare the new republic "a decentralized state" and to specify that "the constitution shall recognize three constituent peoples as well as a group of others with most governmental functions carried out by its provinces."

Officials close to the talks said Dr. Karadzic changed his mind under pressure from Slobodan Milosevic, the ordinarily hard-line nationalist president of Serbia, and of Dobrica Cosic, president of the truncated Yugoslav federation, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro. Both officials attended the talks here.

"Milosevic and Cosic really squeezed him hard," a member of the Yugoslav delegation said. "They told him there was a knife at his throat. They told him that he could expect no help from Serbia for his Bosnian Serbs if he continued to reject the peace plan.

They told him that if the war continued, it would no longer be a classic war, but a war in which the West would intervene, using weapons you can't even see."

Bosnian Serbs have received extensive help from Serbia. There was no clear understanding why Serbia's leader now chose to press Dr. Karadzic to give in.

Monday, Mr. Vance and Lord Owen had set a deadline of 10 a.m. yesterday for Dr. Karadzic to tell them whether he would endorse the agreement.

An internal report commissioned by the State Department has concluded that the effort to send relief supplies to the Bosnians is largely a failure, with the Serbian forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina skimming a quarter of all the aid brought in by relief planes.

The report, which is circulating within the Bush administration, also complains that U.N. peacekeeping troops and refugee officials have often yielded to the Serbs, allowing them to determine what aid is provided and who gets it.

"Since the start of the humanitarian airlift, the U.N. also has sought to appease the Serb militias by providing the Serb 'authorities' a portion [23 percent] of all relief commodities arriving by airlift, and by according them the right to inspect each cargo delivered by air or road, to approve or disapprove each cargo," the report said.

In addition, the report added, the United Nations has allowed the Serbs to dictate the ethnicity of United Nations' truck drivers and convoy routes into Sarajevo.

"In effect," the report said, "the U.N. recognized the Serb militias as the de facto authority in the region."

The report was completed last month by Thomas O. Brennan, a relief expert who spent four months in the former Yugoslavia.

A spokesman for the the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which has been delivering aid to the besieged Muslims in Bosnia, said that it was true that some of the assistance had been diverted to the Serbs and that the Serbs had prevented the United Nations from providing relief to some portions of Bosnia.

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