Owen fears rough ride for Bosnia peace plan

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The Independent Online
LORD OWEN warned yesterday that the Geneva peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina faced serious obstacles because Bosnian Serbs and Muslims were both dissatisfied with the proposed borders between the republic's ethnic areas.

'We have not yet got agreement on the map from either the Muslims or the Serbs, and that will probably be one of the hardest tasks that we face over the weekend,' said Lord Owen, the EC's Bosnia mediator. He was referring to the resumption tomorrow of negotiations in Geneva aimed at ending the nine-month war and devising a constitutional settlement.

The Bosnian Serbs, despite the acceptance of the peace plan by their 'parliament' on Wednesday, are holding out for a deal that will give them control of a continuous stretch of territory in northern and eastern Bosnia with no Muslim- or Croatian-ruled areas in between. For their part, the Muslims fear that the Geneva plan for a decentralised Bosnia with 10 autonomous provinces will allow the Serbs and Croats to complete the process of carving up the republic between them.

The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, said that the state-within-a-state that the Serbs have established for themselves in Bosnia would continue to exist 'until the Serbian people decide otherwise'. His remarks indicated that the Bosnian Serbs had not abandoned their vision of uniting territory under their control with Serbia itself and regions of Croatia that the Serbs seized in 1991.

Bosnian Muslim leaders voiced scepticism about the acceptance of the Geneva plan by the Bosnian Serb 'parliament'. Kemal Muftic, a senior adviser to the Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, said: 'Our experience so far tells us that, whatever they agree to, it means nothing on the ground.'

Jacques Delors, the President of the European Commission, set little store by the Bosnian Serb vote. 'Nothing has been achieved. Now we shall have to define Bosnia's internal borders,' he said.

Sarajevo radio, the voice of the Bosnian government, said yesterday that Muslim fighters had advanced four miles in battles against the Serbs near Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia. The radio said the Muslims' progress had caused Serbian forces to retaliate by using two warplanes in violation of a United Nations Security Council ban on military flights in Bosnia.

Muslim units were also involved in renewed fighting with Croats in central Bosnia, a Croatian military spokesman said. Muslim snipers had shot dead a Croatian soldier in the town of Gornji Vakuf, where a British serviceman was killed last week.

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