Serbian leader reportedly OKs posting of border monitors on one condition

September 01, 1994|By Dusko Doder | Dusko Doder,Special to The Sun

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic has agreed to allow the deployment of international monitors along Yugoslavia's border with Bosnia provided that they also be placed along Bosnia's western border with Croatia, Belgrade newspapers reported yesterday.

International monitoring of the Yugoslavian-Bosnian border has been a key precondition for an easing of United Nations sanctions against Serbia and its tiny sister republic of Montenegro, which form the new Yugoslavia.

Mr. Milosevic had previously resisted the idea, but he changed his mind during a long bargaining session with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev earlier this week.

The meeting produced a broad agreement under which Russia would attempt to secure an immediate easing of the U.N. sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia for its role in the Bosnian war, the newspapers said.

Diplomatic sources here confirmed as "largely authentic" the details of the Milosevic-Kozyrev negotiations reported in several Belgrade newspapers.

The reported agreement indicates a more assertive Russian policy in the Balkans that could produce new divisions among the member-nations of a "Contact Group" seeking a peaceful end to the conflict.

The Russian strategy now calls for stepped up pressure on the Bosnian Serbs who gambled away what may have been their last chance to directly determine their fate when they overwhelmingly rejected an international peace plan over the weekend.

At the same time, Russia, which has strong ethnic links to Serbia, now insists that the international community should start relaxing sanctions against Yugoslavia in recognition of its crucial role in bringing about the Bosnian Serbs' complete isolation.

The details of the easing of sanctions agreed upon by the two officials remain unclear. Mr. Kozyrev is said to have told Mr. Milosevic that the Contact Group -- which includes the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- was prepared to try a three-month arrangement under which Belgrade airport would be reopened to three international carriers and Yugoslavian athletes would be allowed to go to international matches.

Mr. Milosevic's list of demands included an end to the ban on scientific and cultural exchanges, the reopening of Belgrade airport to Yugoslavian international flights, an easing on the importation of heating fuel, free passage for road and rail transport of goods from neighboring countries, and permission for Yugoslavian merchant ships to transports good between third countries.

A compromise was reached, according to the reports. If it is approved by the the Contact Group, Mr. Milosevic will accept 400 international observers from Russia, Greece and other "friendly" countries.

Mr. Milosevic's insistence on the deployment of international monitors on Bosnia's border with Croatia was seen as an effort to make his own acceptance of the monitors politically more palatable.

"This would make it seem that the whole of Bosnia is being watched, not Serbia," one diplomatic source said. "Moreover, it would stop the flow of weapons to the Bosnian Muslims."

The Croatian-Bosnian border has been the only venue for arms shipments to the Muslim-led government in Sarajevo.

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