Serbs vote to further defy U.N. Nationalists prefer their own map

April 04, 1993|By New York Times News Service

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Emphatically underscoring thei rejection of a peace plan accepted by Bosnia's two other warring parties, Serbian nationalists declared yesterday that they were determined to divide Bosnia into three parts and were ready to defy any pressure the world might apply.

The Bosnian Serbs' leader, Radovan Karadzic, also said that if the direct talks he had proposed with the Bosnian government and Croats did not lead to progress within three weeks, Bosnian Serbs would unite with Serbs holding about one-third of Croatian territory to establish a joint state.

As the Serbian delegates took the vote yesterday, a United Nations spokesman in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, reported that Serbian forces had committed what appeared to be the most serious breach so far of the cease-fire that has prevailed across the republic for a week.

Cmdr. Barry Frewer of the Canadian navy said that U.N. military observers in the besieged Muslim town of Srebrenica had reported that the town had come under Serbian artillery, mortar, and infantry fire Friday and that the attacks had resumed at daybreak yesterday.

Commander Frewer characterized the attacks at Srebrenica as "a flagrant violation" of the cease-fire, adding:

"This will have a serious impact on the peace process."

In New York, the U.N. Security Council met in emergency session and issued a statement condemning the Serbs for blocking U.N. relief convoys in eastern Bosnia.

Diplomats said the council will impose harsher sanctions early this week on Serbia and Montenegro, the remaining republics in Yugoslavia, which is widely accused of supporting Serbian rebels in Bosnia.

At the end of a two-day session in Bileca of their self-styled parliament, the Bosnian Serbs voted almost unanimously to shun the international peace proposal, describing it as "unacceptable in its present form." The vote was 68-0 with one abstention. A more moderate resolution was rejected by acclamation Friday.

Their decision came despite intense lobbying from the Russian government for a more moderate course. Russia's deputy foreign minister, Vitaly Churkin, attended the meeting and forcefully argued for acceptance of the essence of the plan.

Mr. Karadzic, who had also argued for a more moderate course Friday, seemed yesterday to have rediscovered all his defiance. He said he hoped the Clinton administration would now accept "the principle of self-determination of ethnic groups, or at least the principle of dividing Bosnia-Herzegovina into three parts."

"The maps, such as they are, directly jeopardize the existence of the Serbian people in these lands," Mr. Karadzic said.

"The acceptance of the maps would be the suicide of the Serbian people."

The resolution approved by the Serbs said the peace plan was unacceptable because "it unjustly divides the area, its mineral resources, the energy potential, industry, and infrastructure, and does not correspond to the ethnic composition of the population."

The plan calls for Bosnia to remain a sovereign state, but with 10 semiautonomous provinces that would be controlled by one or other of the three main national groups.

The Bosnian Serb parliament authorized Serbian leaders to resume negotiations on the plan but insisted on far-reaching changes, including an extension of the territories that the plan would place under Serbian control.

The Muslim-led Bosnian government quickly warned that it would abandon the cease-fire and resume full-scale war against the Serbian nationalist forces if the West failed to get the Serbs to sign the peace accord.

Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic said that the Bosnian government would wait "a reasonable time" to see what pressure was brought to bear on the Serbs by the United Nations and by LTC the Western governments that have taken the lead in formulating U.N. policy on Bosnia.

Looking exhausted, Mr. Silajdzic said the events of recent weeks had brought the world to the point where it would finally have to decide whether it would continue to tolerate Serbian defiance of international opinion or act to halt the attacks.

"We have done what we have been asked," he said, in a reference to the Bosnian government's decision to sign the peace plan two weeks ago.

"In return, we have had assurances of support from the world's most important leaders. Now, it's their turn to act."

In Vancouver, Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher offered to revise a peace plan for Bosnia yesterday to gain the support of Serbian nationalists. He did not elaborate.

"They left the door open," Mr. Christopher said. But he said the Clinton administration still would use pressure tactics, including stiffer sanctions against federal Yugoslavia.

The Bileca declaration also said Bosnian Serb authorities would "continue to allow" movement of humanitarian convoys, but two of three such convoys in eastern Bosnia were blocked yesterday.

A convoy bound for Srebrenica that had been held up by Serbs finally turned back yesterday because of Serbian objections, U.N. officials said.

Another convoy bound for Zepa returned to Belgrade after Canadian officers refused to let Serbs inspect their weapons.

A third convoy was believed to have reached Gorazde.

Meeting in emergency session yesterday, the U.N. Security Council called on Bosnia's Serbs to lift their siege of Srebrenica and condemned the local Serbian commander in the strongest language for barring deliveries of aid to the civilians stranded there.

The council demanded that the Serbs allow humanitarian aid into Srebrenica and asked the United Nations to send in more peacekeepers and use all its resources to "reinforce the existing humanitarian operations" in Bosnia.

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