Mediator not keen about parachuting aid in Bosnia EASTERN EUROPE

February 24, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS -- International mediator Lord Owen expressed little enthusiasm yesterday for the Clinton administration's proposal to airdrop assistance to besieged Bosnians.

In an interview here, the European Community representative in the U.N. peacemaking initiative also said that the Security Council may eventually have to impose a settlement on the warring Bosnian parties despite the Clinton administration's objections.

He said he welcomes President Clinton's plan to airdrop supplies in eastern Bosnia as a symbol of determination. But he noted that professional advice for the past four months had been against it.

He also stressed that it shouldn't be seen as a substitute for negotiations, which have been stalled by the refusal of Serbs and Muslims to return to the negotiating table.

"All these humanitarian problems could be solved more or less within 72 hours of signing a peace settlement," he said. "The humanitarian thing would be lifted immediately."

As for Washington's objections to "imposing" on the warring parties the so-called Vance-Owen plan for dividing Bosnia into 10 ethnic regions, he said they appeared unrealistic.

"This whole idea that has suddenly come up that somehow it's all a nice convenient little tea party in which everybody agrees, I'm afraid it's never been my view of these negotiations," Lord Owen said.

In assuming a stronger role in efforts to reach a settlement, the Clinton administration pledged that no settlement would be "imposed" on the parties. Its aim was to reassure the militarily weaker Bosnian Muslims that they wouldn't be forced into a bad deal.

Lord Owen, who works in partnership with former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, said the pledge would undercut the negotiations by giving one of the three parties-- Muslims, Serbs or Croats -- a veto.

"I hear the language of 'no-imposition' and I smile," he said. But, rather than having to force the Muslims to accept a settlement, he said, the more likely outcome would be that the Security Council would have to compel the Serbs to go along.

"I've never shifted from my view that it may well be necessary to take sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs because they wouldn't accept a fair settlement," he said.

Lord Owen spoke as he and Mr. Vance continued to try, though so far without success, to get the stalled negotiations for a peace settlement in Bosnia under way again by persuading Muslim and Serbian leaders to come to New York.

The appointment of U.S. special envoy Reginald Bartholemew and the United States' pledge to help enforce a settlement with ground troops if necessary have improved the prospects for a settlement, he said, particularly by assuring the Muslims that an agreement could be made to stick.

But he cautioned that there are limits to changes that can be made in the peace plan drawn up by the mediators to make it more palatable to the Muslims.

As it stands now, he said, the plan rolls back Serbian territorial gains, requiring the Serbs to accept 43 percent of Bosnia compared to the 70 percent they now control.

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