Bosnian Serb leader 'expects to sign peace plan': Pressure to end war builds up as factions gather for summit in Athens

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The Independent Online
AS ALL three sides in the Bosnian war gathered for an emergency meeting in Greece today, Bosnia's rebel Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, said he believed the talks could make enough progress to enable his parliament to accept the Vance-Owen peace plan.

Clearly under extreme pressure from President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia to sign, Mr Karadzic told reporters in the Serbian stronghold of Pale that although he did not expect to sign the plan during the weekend summit, 'we can make a big advance so that Serb parliament can accept it on May 5'. He said he would be prepared to consider swapping or giving up land to help to end the civil war.

The attendance at the Athens meeting of Mr Milosevic, whose country was hit this week by tougher international sanctions, is the latest tactic of Lord Owen, the EC mediator, to persuade the Bosnian Serbs to sign his plan. Lord Owen warned yesterday that limited military action of the kind considered by President Bill Clinton might serve only to bring the Serbs closer together. But in Washington the attitude towards the Athens meeting remains sceptical.

'They (the Serbs) have said things before and not meant it . . . We will know them by their deeds,' Mr Clinton said. He is expected today to finalise his proposals on the war. The Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, is then flying to Europe to begin consultations with allies. He is expected to meet the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, at Chevening tomorrow evening.

Anxious about the danger of a split among the allies, a senior administration official went out of his way to insist that the Clinton plans will not represent a final position. 'This will be an approach and a set of principles that will be followed up by true consultations,' he said. 'There will be no ultimatum.'

The package is none the less expected to include proposals to exempt Bosnian Muslims from the international arms embargo, an idea to which Britain is strongly opposed. Vice- President Al Gore said yesterday: 'The international community is, in a sense, already taking sides in the conflict, because the Serbians, have all the weapons that they need. The international community is using military force in the form of an embargo to prevent the Bosnian Muslims from defending themselves.'

State Department officials said that parallel consultations are under way with Muslim states, including Saudi Arabia, on support for possible military action.

Diplomatic sources said the conference would try to make the peace plan more appealing to the Bosnian Serbs. One proposal is to create a demilitarised corridor in the north- east that would link areas designated for Serbian control.

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