Envoys' Bosnia plan criticized by Clinton President consults aides on strategy

February 06, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton criticized international mediators' peace plan for Bosnia yesterday as one that could leave Muslims at a "severe disadvantage," and he met with top advisers to map a new U.S. initiative for ending the conflict.

He welcomed a suggestion by Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to enlist Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin in getting an equitable agreement. But a senior official said there were no plans at this point for joint U.S.-Russian sponsorship of negotiations.

At a meeting with his national security team late yesterday, Mr. Clinton moved toward framing a new U.S. policy, the official said, but did not make a final decision. The emerging plan gives what one official called "sharp attention to greatly increased diplomatic initiatives, along with sanctions and humanitarian aid."

Officials said the peace proposal put forward by envoys Cyrus R. Vance and Lord Owen, while flawed, could serve as the basis for a new initiative.

But the president was said to be "not willing to rule out any options," including military force if needed later on.

At a news conference after his first meeting at the White House with a foreign leader, Mr. Clinton said, "The United States at the present time is reluctant to impose an agreement on the parties to which they do not agree, especially when the Bosnian Muslims might be left at a severe disadvantage if the agreement is not undertaken in good faith by the other parties and cannot be enforced externally."

His refusal to join in imposing a settlement effectively dooms the Vance-Owen strategy. They hoped to pressure Serbs and Muslims to sign on to the plan with the threat that the United Nations Security Council would impose it by resolution if they continued to balk.

The plan calls for 10 autonomous provinces in Bosnia and an interim government made up of Muslims, Serbs and Croats. Both Muslims and Serbs object to how the areas have been apportioned among the three groups.

Yesterday in New York, Serbs raised new problems with the map, demanding more land than the mediators offered, said Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for the Vance-Owen team.

Bosnia's foreign minister, Haris Silajdzic, said in Washington this week that the plan didn't distinguish between victims and aggressors.

Without impending Security Council action, it is unlikely Serbs and Muslims would reach agreement on their own.

Mr. Clinton's comments reflected deep suspicion within the administration that Bosnian Serbs would violate the agreement in a continued quest to create a greater Serbia unless it were heavily enforced with tens of thousands of ground troops, including Americans.

Also in Washington, Greece's top general warned about thmilitary option, saying, "There are 1,000 ways for an army to go into Yugoslavia but none for an army to get out."

"From the very beginning, I felt there are no military solutions to the Bosnia issue," Gen. Yannis Veryvakis told the Associated Press after a meeting with Gen. Colin L. Powell, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He backed the Vance-Owen plan and also blamed all sides for the fighting. He said the situation demanded a new Marshall plan with all nations contributing, instead of having the United States bear the burden as it did in Europe's recovery after World War II.

Mr. Mulroney put forward an alternate course that wouldn't undo the months of effort by the mediators and that seizes the opportunity presented by the parties' arrival in New York this week.

He said, "There's been a lot of constructive work done, but . . . there are inadequacies in it that can be corrected at the Security Council by . . . a greater degree of involvement by the United States in terms of the accord itself, and also the involvement of President Yeltsin."

He also recommended that the pact be amended to strengthen provisions for human rights and address war crimes.

The idea of stepped-up U.S. and Russian efforts to improve the pact, with the Americans putting pressure on Bosnian Muslims and Russians pressuring the Serbs, has won favor at the United Nations.

Mr. Clinton said that "if there is to be a diplomatic, political solution to this over the long run, we very much need President Yeltsin involved and the support of Russia."

But his remarks indicated he hadn't accepted the idea of a quick new U.S.-Russian diplomatic initiative in New York and may still be weighing interim forms of pressure on the Serbs to level the playing field for the Muslims.

Mr. Clinton said "we would like a few days longer" to come up with a policy, "then we'll announce it as clearly and forcefully and follow it as strongly as we possibly can."

Asked if he planned a diplomatic initiative to replace the flaws in the Vance-Owen plan, he replied, "I can't say that at this time."

"We will settle on a course, and then do our best to consult with our allies and win broad support for it."

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