UN to govern Sarajevo for two years after three-way division of Bosnia: Presidents called to Geneva in fresh push for settlement

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The Independent Online
ALL THREE sides in the Bosnian war yesterday agreed to place Sarajevo under the rule of the United Nations for two years when an overall three-way division of the republic is decided.

Although the deal represented a success for the international mediators, it cannot come into force until the Muslim, Serb and Croat factions overcome dramatic differences to reach a final settlement. To that end, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg have asked President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia to fly to Geneva today to bring pressure to bear upon the Serbs and Croats from their political godfathers.

The Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim, is also under considerable international pressure to commit his government to a deal that preserves the existence of Sarajevo but obliges its forces to cease their offensive against Croats between Sarajevo and the Adriatic coast.

Lord Owen is determined that Mr Izetbegovic should not win peace for Sarajevo while waging war for territory elsewhere. Heated arguments took place yesterday over charges of massacres and torture in the Muslim-Croat conflict, which is raging while the guns around Sarajevo have largely fallen silent. This bitter fighting amounts to an effort to change the ethnic boundaries of the future republics by military means while delaying negotiations in Geneva. The Sarajevo agreement is, therefore, likely to make it easier for the UN to press the Muslims for a genuine ceasefire elsewhere.

A text of the agreement, made available last night, set out a detailed proposal for the administration of the city and for alterations to the boundaries of its constituent districts.

Described by one diplomat as 'an exercise in the art of the possible', the accord is hedged with provisions for consensus decisions and a boundary commission, all of which provides fertile ground for prompt disagreements.

'This means that the issue of Sarajevo for the purpose of reaching an overall peace settlement has been settled,' said the conference spokesman, John Mills. But Mr Izetbegovic, leaving the UN building, said 'no' when asked if he had reached agreement - a sign that the Muslims intend to negotiate hard. None the less, the draft sets out a plan for the UN to assume government of the city and to take away many of the powers formally vested in the Bosnian government.

It says the UN administration will last for two years, within which time the parties should commit themselves to reaching a final settlement on its status. The city and its suburbs will be known as the Sarajevo district, governed by a UN administrator appointed by the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

During the interim period, Sarajevo will not form part of any of the three ethnic republics intended to make up the 'Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina'. But the administrator will have an advisory body made of up of four Muslims, three Serbs, two Croats and one representative of other minorities. He or she will also be expected to work with a joint military commission, including Serbian and Muslim officers, to oversee a ceasefire and demilitarisation.

Lord Owen has emphasised that he does not regard this as anything other than a temporary solution to a problem which defies ready agreement and he has told the Security Council that UN member states must be ready to commit troops and resources to ensure that any final peace plan is carried out.

The UN is now in a position to use air power in support of the peace-keeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a spokesman said last night.

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