Bosnia's old enemies get round table

The London conference on security arrangements for Bosnia for the next two years got under way yesterday, amid news of unrest in Serbia and calls for a reappraisal of the relationship between Nato and Russia

It was the first time that representatives of the three former warring factions in Bosnia - Serbs, Croats and Muslims - had appeared under a common Bosnian banner at an international conference.

The 54-nation meeting, introduced by John Major, was overshadowed by the crisis in Serbia. The British government said events in Belgrade were "very much on our minds".

Details of the new Bosnia Stabilisation Force - SFor - have already been announced, and senior Nato sources focused more on the way Nato might use the conference to strengthen its relations with the Russians, who provide troops for Bosnia. The sources said the arrangements were still under investigation, but that they were moving away from the 16-nation alliance making up its mind and then telling the Russians - a formula known as "Sixteen plus one" - towards giving Russia a full role in proposing and vetoing action.

This formula is known tentatively as "Seventeen". If it is to make any sense, Russia would be able to make proposals and even veto Nato decisions other than those concerned with Chapter Five - the military core of the Nato charter.

This radical proposal flies in the face of Nato insistence that Russia should not veto its decisions, and if implemented would put the security of the entire northern hemisphere in the hands of a joint Nato-Russia forum - effectively duplicating the UN Security Council.

Nato's Secretary-General, Javier Solana, said the new Stabilisation Force for Bosnia would be roughly half the size of the former peace implementation force, I-For. He said: "We are planning for an 18-month mission, to be reviewed at six and 12 months, with a view to progressively reducing the forces presence to a deterrent posture and eventually withdrawal."

Nato's supreme commander, General George Joulwan, said the new operation, to begin on 20 December, would include 31,000 troops from 34 nations. t Athens - A unique collection of 72 poems by Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader indicted for genocide, was unveiled here yesterday, AP reports.

Titled Of Immemorable Years and Other Poems, the book has never been published outside the former Yugoslavia, publishers and authors said. They claimed proceeds would go towards humanitarian aid for Bosnian Serb children. "The poems present a passionate, human Karadzic, not the Nero he is thought to be," said Greek author Christos Halayias.