Belgrade to cut supplies to Bosnian Serbs: Rejection of peace angers Milosevic - US demands Europe back quick action

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia last night vented his anger at his erstwhile allies in Bosnia by cutting off their supplies in retaliation for the Bosnian Serbs' rejection of the Vance-Owen peace plan.

In a step certain to stave off immediate allied military action, which European governments oppose, the government of rump Yugoslavia - Serbia and Montenegro - announced that Belgrade would cease all but humanitarian supplies to the Bosnian Serbs.

Serbia 'can no longer tolerate seeing certain leaders from that area living in comfort in Belgrade while they offer to their people in the Serb Republic (of Bosnia) only a policy of sacrifice and poverty . . . Reasons no longer exist for further assistance in money, fuel, raw materials, etcetera,' the Yugoslav government said.

The decision was prepcipitated by a vote in the Bosnian Serbs' self-styled parliament to put the peace plan to a referendum on 15 and 16 May. A grim-faced Mr Milosevic, who attended the session and pleaded for an unequivocal endorsement of the Vance-Owen plan, stormed out to a waiting car. 'He was radioactive,' said one Serbian journalist.

Lord Owen, the EC's peace mediator, hailed Belgrade's decision as 'extremely important', and said he hoped Mr Milosevic would now allow UN monitors to ensure the Yugoslav border with Bosnia was sealed.

'There are many in that (Bosnian Serb) assembly that did not think the Yugoslavs would put their words into action and cut them off,' he said. 'This will be a very salutary lesson . . . 'They (the Yugoslavs) have supported this peace plan and they're now supporting it in action, and I think we should take very important regard to that.'

But Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, remained defiant. Asked by BBC television whether pressure from Belgrade might force a change of heart, he replied: 'Well, actually, no.'

President Bill Clinton had earlier demanded that America's reluctant European allies join the US in 'quick and decisive' steps to halt Serbian aggression in the former Yugoslavia after the rejection of the peace plan.

Mr Clinton, speaking before the Belgrade statement, said he had told the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, who is touring Europe to consult with America's allies, to step up pressure for an agreed course of action.

'America has made its position clear and is ready to do its part,' the President declared, his patience clearly almost exhausted. 'But Europe must be willing to act with us. We must go forward together.' He dismissed the Bosnian Serb parliament's call for a referendum as a delaying tactic.

At the United Nations, the Security Council last night adopted a proposal for new 'safe areas' to be created in Sarajevo and the Muslim-dominated Bosnian towns of Zepa, Gorazde, Bihac and Tuzla. In Zepa itself, Serbian forces were close to breaching the town's defences, according to local amateur radio operators.

President Clinton moved to meet criticism that he has not explained US objectives in Bosnia by laying out in the clearest terms yet the rationale for direct US military involvement. The Serbs' behaviour not only violated the principle that internationally recognised borders could not be altered by outside force. Their aggression threatened to widen the conflict and destabilise other parts of Europe, while 'ethnic cleansing' was an offence to the world's conscience, he said. America was seeking if possible to eliminate 'these centuries-old series of ethnic and religious enmities', and if not, to confine them to the narrowest possible area.

Despite the sizeable portion of Congress still opposed to US intervention, on Capitol Hill too the clamour for tougher moves is growing. As the Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, briefed leading Congressmen behind closed doors on the crisis, Sam Nunn, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded at the very least a militarisation of the UN mission in Bosnia, to improve protection for the Muslim population.

But should supplies from Serbia proper cease, the justification for the US proposal to bomb Serbian supply routes will have been removed.

Garrison stands by, page 10

Leading article, page 19

(Photograph omitted)

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