Belgrade warns Bosnian Serbs

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - Serbia, facing the prospect of stiffer international sanctions, yesterday threatened to sever relations with the Bosnian Serbs if they continued to reject the latest international peace plan. The Bosnian Serbs said their self- declared parliament would meet in Pale today to discuss a referendum on whether to accept the peace plan drawn up by the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany and France.

The threat to sever ties came in a letter from the government of Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic. It said the Bosnian Serb leaders would be committing 'treason' and 'crimes against their own people' if they continued to reject the peace plan.

'If, at this time when peace is offered, you usurp the right to decide on the fate of Yugoslavia, you as leaders, eliminate all possibility of further relations with us.' Failure to accept peace, would be 'the greatest ever treason against Serb national interests.'

The big powers called last weekend for sanctions to be tightened if Belgrade's Bosnian Serb proteges continued to reject the peace plan. The embargo would begin to be lifted once the plan was accepted.

Mr Milosevic, blamed by the West for starting the Bosnian war in pursuit of his ambition to establish a 'Greater Serbia', has been publicly distancing himself from the Bosnian Serbs since the big powers threatened to step up sanctions.

The peace plan would award the Moslem-Croat federation 51 per cent of Bosnia while the Serbs, who hold about 70 per cent of the territory after two years of war and ethnic cleansing, would be required to roll back to 49 per cent.

The Bosnian Serbs responded by asking for further talks on the division of Bosnia between them and the Muslim-Croat federation, and guarantees of sovereignty for their self-declared Bosnian Serb republic. This was rejected by all five major powers, who insisted acceptance must be unconditional.

In Sarajevo, the United Nations reconvened talks between the warring sides on opening routes into the city, releasing prisoners and ending the sniping which is causing rising numbers of civilian casualties. Agreement was reached on ending the sniping, but no progress was made on opening routes into the city, or releasing prisoners.

Bosnian Serb army officials in Pale said yesterday that Muslim forces had gained ground in central Bosnia in fierce clashes on Monday evening. They reported four soldiers killed and four wounded.

In the north-western Bosnian enclave of Bihac, Serbs have provided tanks to bolster the forces of rebel Muslim leader Fikret Abdic in his fight against the army of the Muslim-led Bosnian government.

UN officials said Bosnian government forces had all but captured the town of Pecigrad, trapping about 500 of breakaway leader Mr Abdic's best troops inside, with scant hope of rescue. UN officials in Croatia said Serb forces had plundered UN weapons depots to help Mr Abdic.

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican is sending an advance team to Sarajevo to explore the possibility of a visit by Pope John Paul, Vatican sources said yesterday.

The Vatican wanted to include a stop in the Bosnian capital as part of a trip the Pope hopes to make on 10 to 12 September to Zagreb and other parts of Croatia.

(Photograph omitted)