Negotiators' decision on talks puts U.S. in tight spot

January 31, 1993|By Elaine Sciolino | Elaine Sciolino,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration was surprised by the decision of negotiators Cyrus R. Vance and Lord Owen yesterday to ask the Security Council to impose a solution to end the war in Bosnia, senior administration officials said.

The decision, announced by the two mediators in Geneva, puts the administration in an awkward position by forcing it to choose whether to support what senior officials have called a flawed plan.

The plan to move the peace talks to the United Nations coincided with Mr. Vance's presentation of a proposal for an interim government that some administration officials have criticized as essentially abolishing the legitimate government of Bosnia-Herzegovina and enforcing the ethnic partition of the country, as has been demanded by the Serbian aggressors.

The U.S. liaison in Geneva has conveyed the same reservations, the officials said.

Neither the White House nor the State Department would comment on the negotiators' proposal, which is to be presented to the United Nations tomorrow. Officials said they needed to review the document.

Thus far, the administration line on the Geneva negotiations is somewhat confusing. White House and State Department spokesmen have said that the administration supports the negotiating process, and has urged the parties to reach a settlement. But the administration has withheld approval of the detailed plan to put the process into effect, and Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who served as Mr. Vance's deputy when Mr. Vance was President Jimmy Carter's secretary of state, has called on the United States to take an independent position.

Members of Congress who have been staunch supporters of the Muslim government in Bosnia, criticized the negotiators. Rep. Frank McCloskey, D-Ind., accused Mr. Vance, who represents the United Nations, and Lord Owen, of the European Community, of an "appeasement strategy" whose goal is "to pre-empt any move by President Clinton to confront rather than acquiesce in genocidal Serb aggression."

The two negotiators are to meet tomorrow with Mr. Christopher, who coincidentally scheduled his first trip to the United Nations that day, to report on the Geneva talks.

Mr. Christopher's trip was initially presented as a get-acquainted session with Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who differs with the United States on a number of issues, including the timetable for the removal of U.N. troops from Somalia and Israel's refusal to adhere to a Security Council resolution to take back more than 400 Palestinian deportees.

Now the visit is expected to be overshadowed by the war in the former Yugoslavia and the debate over the Vance-Owen plan.

Some administration officials who have studied the document said it was flawed because it specifically abolishes the legitimate government of an internationally recognized state and replaces it with an ethnically based nine-member council that divides power among the Muslims now in power and the Croats and Serbs.

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