'Safe haven' Bosnia policy seems likely U.S. course

May 20, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The United States and its allies appear to b moving reluctantly toward an outcome in Bosnia-Herzegovina that would leave the Serbs in control of territory they have seized and deploy U.N. troops to guard "safe havens" for the remaining Muslims, say U.S. officials and allied diplomats.

The Clinton administration is unenthusiastic about the idea, but Britain, France and other countries with troops already in Bosnia are actively planning a "safe haven" program that could put as many as 75,000 U.N. troops on the ground to protect Muslims in six cities from further Serb and Croatian attacks.

U.S. and European diplomats worry that the effect would be to grant the Serbs long-term control over territory they have taken through violence and terror against defenseless civilians.

"There is a risk that the whole thing will peter out with the situation on the ground frozen," a U.N. official, who has been involved in the peace negotiations, said yesterday. "That is the Muslims' worst fear."

But the Europeans say the "safe havens" would be designed only as an interim measure, to help stop the fighting and save lives, while the West continues to press for a settlement that would include Serbian withdrawal from some of the lands they have seized during the war.

"There must be a political process" to lead to a peace agreement, British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said. "But we also want to build up the idea of safe havens, safe areas."

Secretary of State Warren Christopher said he will seek common ground on the Bosnian conflict in separate meetings with Mr. Hurd, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Russian Foreign Ministry Andrei D. Kozyrev over the next five days.

A Christopher aide said the secretary of state still hopes to persuade the allies to agree to President Clinton's preferred course of arming the Bosnian Muslims in hopes of changing the course of the war. But he acknowledged that there was no sign the Europeans have softened their objections to that plan.

Without a consensus, Mr. Christopher and other officials say the United States has shifted from trying to roll back Serbian gains toward simply containing the conflict.

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