Russia privately warns U.S. not to lift Bosnian arms embargo

September 04, 1994|By New York Times News Service

EDGARTOWN, Mass. -- In a new sign of division over the path to peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia has issued a strong private message to President Clinton warning him not to lift the arms embargo against the Bosnian government, administration officials said yesterday.

Mr. Clinton said last month that he would press for a lifting of the embargo if the Bosnian Serbs had not accepted a peace settlement drafted by the Western allies and Russia by Oct. 15. The embargo bars arms shipments to all sides in the conflict, but hurts the Bosnian government most because the Bosnian Serbs are much better armed.

A possible opening of the way to arms shipments to the Muslim-led Bosnian government is among the steps that have been held out since early summer by members of the so-called contact group -- Russia, Britain, France, Germany and the United States -- to induce the Serbs to agree to the peace terms.

But in a diplomatic presentation at the State Department on Friday, a Russian envoy was emphatic in saying his government would never agree to that step.

The envoy, who said he was delivering a message intended for Mr. Clinton, said Russia wanted the president instead to permit an immediate easing of economic sanctions against Serbia, Moscow's traditional ally, as a reward for Serbia's new efforts to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to accept the peace terms.

After several months in which members of the contact group have maintained a facade of unanimity, administration officials familiar with the new Russian appeal described it as potentially troublesome.

They said it might reflect stark differences between the United States and Russia over what steps the group should take in its efforts to impose a settlement in Bosnia that could end 29 months of war.

Administration officials said that Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev of Russia delivered an identical message on Wednesday in a meeting with Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany, and that high-level meetings to review the status of U.S. policy toward Bosnia would likely be convened by the National Security Council staff this week.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that one person was killed and two wounded Friday by fire from a Bosnian Serb gun on Mount Igman, southwest of the capital.

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