BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Russia is expected to advance a new initiative on Bosnia that would grant the Bosnian Serbs the same constitutional rights as the other two warring parties -- the Muslims and Croats.
The plan will be presented Friday in Brussels, Belgium, at a meeting of foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, according to diplomatic sources. The five powers comprise the so-called Contact Group on Bosnia.
Elements of the plan have emerged here after two days of talks between Russian Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Mr. Kozyrev was followed here by representatives of the Contact Group.
The Russian initiative is essentially an amended version of an earlier Contact Group peace plan.
It would continue to insist on the 51 percent-49 percent, Muslim-Croatian vs. Serbian territorial division of Bosnia, which would remain a confederation of states within its recognized borders.
But it would be amended to accord the Bosnian Serbs the right to enter into a confederation with neighboring Serbia -- just as the Bosnian Muslims and Croats had been granted the right to confederate with neighboring Croatia.
The plan calls for a cessation of hostilities throughout Bosnia to be formally agreed upon by all warring parties -- specifically by the commanding officers of the three armies -- to create conditions for a resumption of political talks.
The United States had been opposed to the Russian idea, but its position was seen as softening in an effort to paper over Washington's serious disagreements with its European allies that have emerged in the course of the current fight over Bihac, the northwest Bosnian enclave.
The Bosnian Serb reaction to the Russian initiative remains uncertain, though it would appear to create a long-held dream of
a Greater Serbia. The Bosnian Serbs previously rejected the Contact Group's proposal for dividing Bosnia, mainly because it would give them 49 percent of the land at a time when they control 70 percent.
But the Bosnian Serbs also bitterly objected to the "asymmetrical" treatment of the three parties. Specifically, the Bosnian Serbs were not given the constitutional rights accorded to the Muslims and Croats.
The original plan treats the Bosnian Muslims and Croats as Bosnia's constituent peoples, with legitimate governments that have the right to form a federation and enter into a confederation with neighboring Croatia.
It left undefined the status of the Bosnian Serb "entity" and did not provide them with the right to enter into a confederation with Serbia, its powerful ally and the dominant partner in what's left of Yugoslavia.