Bosnian Serbs rewrite peace plan: Parliament seems ready to stop fighting, but on conditions that depart far from Vance-Owen formula

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The Independent Online
AFTER a day of fierce debate, Bosnian Serbs meeting in their parliament last night appeared near agreement to end the fighting in Bosnia - but with such sweeping conditions attached that their formula scarcely resembles the Vance-Owen peace plan.

The parliament was close to voting on a compromise document which demanded:

the lifting of a UN-imposed blockade on the rump Yugoslavia;

geographical contiguity of all the Serbian provinces sketched out in the peace plan;

the possibility of a plebiscite in contested regions where Serbs are resident;

continuation of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic set up a year ago.

Whether the international community will agree to such sweeping conditions is uncertain. The Bosnian Serbs seem intent on winning at the negotiating table what they could not gain in battle.

The Greek Prime Minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, a guest at yesterday's session of the self-styled parliament, earlier urged the delegates to sign the Vance-Owen plan, saying it gave them guarantees that met 90 per cent of their demands. The session at a ski resort at Jahorina, high in the Bosnian mountains about 12 miles from Sarajevo, was also urged by the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic to accept the plan.

'The session is as dramatic as the drama of the Serbian people. I am having a very, very, very hard time,' Mr Karadzic said during a break in the closed proceedings.

He said he had won important concessions from the international community, including an equal veto in the tripartite presidency with Muslims and Croats. He warned that refusal to accept the plan would lead to Western military intervention, 'catastrophic' for all Serbs.

As if to emphasise the point, a Nato warplane could be heard flying over the resort as Mr Karadzic waited to receive Mr Milosevic and Mr Mitsotakis.

The most passionate speech of the day was made by Yugoslavia's Federal President, Dobrica Cosic. 'The world is against us, but we cannot continue this war to the point of suicide,' he said.

In Moscow, Russia told the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, it was ready to send troops to help to implement the Vance-Owen plan but hedged over the use of force if Bosnian Serbs refused a settlement.

In London, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, was asked whether there was any question of sending British troops into areas where 'the bullets have not stopped flying'.

'We certainly would not be putting troops in to push Serbs out of areas which they have to vacate under the Vance-Owen plan,' he said. 'One cannot, of course, guarantee a bullet-free situation . . . but we're not talking about an operation for enforcing the plan . . .

But he said it would be unrealistic to think that all Serb withdrawals would take place simultaneously. 'It's going to be an untidy, messy, imperfect situation.'

Russia hedges options, page 10

Leading article, page 25