The EC envoy Lord Owen struck out last night at those who dared to suggest that EC policy in Bosnia had failed. 'You are talking as if we have abandoned the Vance-Owen plan. The truth is that it has been torn up before our very eyes in Travnik, Mostar and Athens,' he said.
He told the EC that conditions in Bosnia were deteriorating so rapidly that they would have to accept 'a nasty negotiation on dividing up territory, even if it is not ideal, because any other solution will be as nasty'.
He said he took very seriously the threat from Muslim factions in Tuzla to use poison gas, which is manufactured in the region. 'We have heard these threats before, but this time they seem to have been endorsed by the Bosnian presidency. If this is so - and we shall be asking Mr Izetbegovic about it - it is very, very serious.'
Heads of government at the EC summit will today consider Lord Owen's assessment of the situation, but are pledged not to sanction any solution that 'threatens the territorial independence of Yugoslavia'. The Danish Foreign Minister, Niels Helvig Petersen, said this meant 'that Bosnia is and shall remain a single state'. The principles of the London conference, taken up in the now defunct Vance-Owen peace plan, were still fundamental to any solution, he said.
Lord Owen insisted that the principle that land could not be acquired by force still held good.
He denied that he and the UN envoy, Thorvald Stoltenberg, were now no more than arbitrators of a settlement dictated by the Serbs and Croats, saying his talks with the EC have set new guidelines for the talks with the three protagonists invited to Geneva on Wednesday. 'The EC is not without power,' he said, noting that Serbia was anxious to see sanctions lifted and that Croatia wanted none applied.
The EC will today work to strike a balance between the aims of the Vance-Owen plan and the de facto partition of the country that is already under way.
A new solution would involve the creation of four provinces - one Serb, one Croat and two Muslim - in one sovereign state. The ministers acknowledged several problems, including Serb withdrawal, the Serb corridor in the north of Bosnia, the status of Sarajevo and providing access to the sea for the Muslims. Extra troops will be sent to enforce the 'safe