Bosnia's Serbs, Muslims reject Geneva peace plan over cease-fire provision

May 15, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

GENEVA -- U.S. Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher and his fellow foreign ministers said they did not expect immediate results from their new peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina -- and yesterday, they were proved right.

Bosnian Muslim leaders denounced the proposal from the United States, Russia and the European Union as legitimizing the Serbs' conquests, and they said a proposed four-month cease-fire is too long.

Bosnian Serbs said the cease-fire is too short and also showed no sign of embracing the allies' terms for a negotiated settlement.

Even the peace plan's authors said they consider its prospects for success to be slim -- at least without military intervention or some other form of direct pressure from the United States and its allies.

"History tells us the chances are probably not great," said a senior U.S. official involved in the negotiations. "Nonetheless, we have to give it a shot."

The problem, he added, is that the United States and its Russian and European allies do not have enough leverage over the Bosnian Serbs to push them into a deal.

What the big powers accomplished last week was to agree on their goals in Bosnia: an early cease-fire, followed by negotiations toward a settlement that divides the country roughly equally between the Serbs and a Muslim-Croatian federation. After two years of discord, they are finally speaking from the same page.

But they are not doing much more than talking, and the Bosnian Serbs have not paid much attention to the outside world's entreaties thus far. If they ignore this new appeal for negotiations, the allies are not quite sure what their next act will be.

The Bosnian Muslim prime minister, Haris Silajdzic, put the situation in a nutshell when he spoke to reporters at a champagne reception Mr. Christopher played host to at the U.S. mission yesterday to honor the Muslim and Croatian negotiators:

"What if the Serbs don't talk?" he asked. "We could be frozen in thesituation we're in. What if they talk and stall? We will be stuck LTC again. What if they reach an agreement and just don't implement it? Where do we go then?"

Mr. Silajdzic condemned the plan as a sellout of the Bosnian Muslims' hopes of keeping their country unified: "Munich on television," he said, referring to the diplomatic conference that awarded part of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in 1938.

And the Bosnian Muslim president, Alija Izetbegovic, said the four-month cease-fire proposed by the allies is too long. At the same time, a spokesman for Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said that four months is too short. "We are in favor of a permanent cessation of hostilities," he said -- a formula the Muslims fear would merely lead to a permanent Serbian occupation of their lands, of which the Serbs have captured 70 percent.

Still, Mr. Silajdzic said he would try to work with the proposal -- especially if the allies backed up their unified message with measures to enforce a settlement.

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