Bosnian Serbs clash over terms of deal to end war

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The Independent Online
BELGRADE - Bosnian Serbs were last night locked in fierce conflict over whether to accept the Geneva peace plan on ending the civil war in the republic, after deciding in Geneva to hand the final decision to a special emergency session of the Bosnian Serb assembly, writes Marcus Tanner.

Radovan Karadzic, leader of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic, yesterday threatened to resign if the assembly rejected the plan, proposed by the peace mediators, Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, and backed by Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic. 'I am sure I will get a majority, but . . . it will not be unanimous,' Mr Karadzic said.

But it remains far from clear whether the Bosnian Serb assembly, which is dominated by ultra- nationalists, will go along with their leader. Earlier, another Bosnian Serb leader, Biljana Plavsic, said she hoped the assembly would reject the plan. Bosnian Serb television on Tuesday launched an unprecedented attack on Mr Milosevic, accusing him of 'meddling' with their internal affairs.

Mr Karadzic was expected to consult with Mr Milosevic last night in Belgrade over the forthcoming session of the Bosnian Serb assembly. Mr Milosevic played a vital role in Geneva in securing the assent of the Bosnian Serb delegates to the plan, after first turning it down. The Serbian media report that Mr Milosevic and the President of Yugoslavia, Dobrica Cosic, will go to Bosnia to secure the approval of the assembly to the plan, if need be.

Unofficial reports say the assembly will meet next Tuesday in Bijeljina, a town in the north-east of Bosnia. If the town on the Serbian border is the venue, the vote will probably go Mr Karadzic's way, as the town is controlled by supporters of Mr Milosevic. But the assembly could meet in Pale, the Bosnian Serb government headquarters near Sarajevo, or in Banja Luka, the Serbian fortress in the north-west, in which case the vote remains wide-open. Neither town is dominated by Milosevic supporters.

The Vance-Owen plan calls for Bosnia's division into 10 provinces enjoying extensive autonomy. The plan does not meet any of the main Bosnian Serb demands for an independent state-within-a- state.

The Serbian state media, which are controlled by the government, bitterly attacked the Geneva proposals right up to the moment that the plan was suddenly accepted by Mr Karadzic, after what appears to have been last-minute arm- twisting by President Milosevic.