Serbs reject peace plan for Bosnia Parliament decides to put issue to popular vote

May 06, 1993|By New York Times News Service

PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Ignoring appeals from both friends and foes, delegates to the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament voted overwhelmingly today to reject the plan to end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and put the peace accord to the (( people in a referendum.

Voting at the end of a 17-hour session at which the presidents of Serbia and Yugoslavia and the Greek prime minister joined their own leader in pleading with them to accept the peace plan, delegates to the self-declared parliament voted 65 to 1 with 12 abstentions to call a referendum of all Bosnian Serbs May 15 and 16 to ratify their rejection of the plan. It was not clear how the parliament proposed holding a referendum of all Bosnian Serbs in the war conditions that now exist.

In a last-ditch appeal minutes before the vote was taken, Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Serbia, who has backed the Bosnian Serbs with arms throughout the 13 months of some of the bitterest fighting in Europe since World War II, told the delegates: "You have to understand that I can't help you anymore."

The decision to put the question of the peace plan to Bosnian Serb voters left open the question of whether Western plans for possible military intervention or a lifting of the arms embargo against the Muslim-led Bosnian government will now go forward. The question of military intervention had been left pending after the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, agreed to the peace plan at a meeting near Athens, Greece, last weekend.

President Clinton conferred with advisers last night.

"He's being told now," a senior administration official said after the president returned to the White House from two receptions. "We'll have to meet in the morning and analyze what happens."

The possibility that the Bosnian Serb parliament might reject the plan began to become clear after delegates started suggesting a series of conditions that should be placed on their acceptance of it.

The delegates said the conditions could include such critical items as changes in the map attached to the peace plan, which would divide Bosnia into 10 semi-autonomous provinces.

"We also want some of the economic sanctions against Serbia lifted right away, and a commitment that others will be gradually lifted," said one delegate, Dobrica Milenkovic, during the debate that preceded the vote. "We want any United Nations forces sent here to include countries we trust, like Greece and Russia, and not Arab countries. With these conditions, we will probably vote to sign."

In one indication the mood of the parliament was going against the plan, one observer who attended the session said after watching the debate: "They are asking for crazy things. There is a big fight between emotion and logic, and it seems that emotion is winning."

Any changes in the peace plan, which was drafted by Cyrus R. Vance, the U.N. mediator, and Lord Owen of the European Community, would have to be approved by the other sides. Both the Bosnian Croats and Muslims have already signed the original peace plan.

It was initially unclear whether the conditions being put forward by the Bosnian Serbs were meant as a negotiating ploy to delay carrying out the terms of the accord.

Under the terms of the plan, once it had been accepted by all parties, an international force of about 50,000 to 70,000 troops, including more than 20,000 U.S. soldiers, would be dispatched to Bosnia as a peacekeeping force.

Another possible explanation for all the conditions suggested by Bosnian Serbs was that they might be intended to be a face-saving declaration that the Bosnian Serbs knew to be unacceptable and would not insist upon, but wanted to promulgate for their own political reasons.

Prior to the vote, Dragan Kalinic, health minister of the self-proclaimed Serbian republic in Bosnia, outlined a list of conditions in a draft document to be voted on by the 82-member assembly.

Chief among them was the establishment of corridors linking Serbian-controlled areas. The issue is critical because, at present, areas in western Bosnia and Croatia with more than a half million Serbian residents are connected to Serbia proper by a corridor that is only a mile wide at one point and is regularly attacked by the Muslim-led Bosnian government forces.

"All Serb provinces should be linked by unbroken territorial corridors," Mr. Kalinic said.

pTC Mr. Vance and Lord Owen had agreed in Athens to establish a six-mile-wide corridor, patrolled by U.N. troops, through the bottleneck in northern Bosnia. But there was no guarantee of eventual Serbian political control of the province through which the corridor would pass; the area is hotly contested by all three factions.

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