Changes urged in Geneva deal

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SARAJEVO - The Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, told parliament yesterday that the Geneva peace deal was unacceptable in its current form and that talks must continue. He told more than 200 members of Bosnia's assembly of parliamentarians, army officers and other public figures meeting in Sarejevo's shell-scarred Holiday Inn hotel that the plan could be a good foundation for future talks but it was clear some changes had to be made.

The assembly postponed a vote until today. A committee of representatives from eight political parties will present a proposal on the peace plan. The Bosnian presidency also sacked its Croatian Prime Minister Mile Akmadzic, withdrawing his mandate following a decision by the Bosnian Croat political party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), to pull its members out of the government and all official posts.

Earlier yesterday Mr Izetbegovic told delegates: 'I think we should be able to agree here on the following: that the Geneva talks should be continued and that the documents put forward at Geneva cannot be accepted but could be a good foundation to continue the negotiations.'

Mr Izetbegovic told the mainly Muslim assembly that it would no longer be possible to defend the concept of a united Bosnia. 'Our duty is to save what can be saved of Bosnia- Herzegovina. That is our task . . . The Bosnian delegation will insist that the talks continue and that the offered maps be modified.'

A decision to continue the Geneva talks is likely to prolong the conflict with Bosnia's Serbs, who have said they have made enough concessions at the negotiating table. Bosnia's Serbian and Croatian assemblies are also debating the peace plan this weekend before a scheduled return to the conference table in Geneva on Monday.

In Pale, the self-styled Bosnian Serb assembly adjourned its discussion of the Geneva peace plan until today without casting a final vote on whether to accept it. The peace plan recognises their republic but forces them to relinquish pockets of historically Serbian land. The leadership pressed members of the Bosnian Serb parliament to accept the plan.

The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, has endorsed the plan, and he said yesterday that the dominant Serbian Democratic Party also backed it. But hardliners in the assembly have vowed to fight it, arguing that its provision to reduce Serbian territory to 52 per cent of Bosnia from the 70 per cent its forces now control betrays thousands of their kin.