EC-US split bursts into open again: Sides still wide apart on establishing 'safe areas' and implementing Vance-Owen peace plan

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The Independent Online
THE SPLIT between the United States and the European Community over Yugoslavia came out into the open again yesterday.

The two are still wide apart on the implementation of the Vance-Owen peace plan for Bosnia, and also differ over the Joint Action Programme which is the basis for establishing 'safe areas' there. With relations between the United Nations and Nato also soured by confusion over such areas, the Western response to the killing is once more drifting.

There was a show of unity when Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, met EC foreign ministers in Luxembourg yesterday. 'I am sure that there is no confusion or mistaken impressions,' Mr Christopher said. Niels Helveg Petersen, his Danish opposite number and president of the Council of Ministers, admitted there were differences, but sought to play them down. 'Yes there are nuances,' he said, 'but there is agreement on the basics.'

But Mr Christopher emphasised that the US sees the latest UN Security Council resolution, on 'safe areas' supported by Nato airpower, as providing only for the defence of UN troops. The Europeans regard it as a mandate to defend Bosnians.

Mr Christopher also pointedly said that he supported 'the Vance-Owen peace process', and not the plan. This, he made clear, was because of lack of support for the map of 10 new Bosnian provinces for which the plan provides. 'We cannot support a specific plan unless it has been agreed by all the parties,' he said. Whereas, Mr Petersen said, 'the Joint Action Programme and Security Council Resolution 836 we regard as steps on the road to the implementation of the Vance-Owen plan'. He called the plan the 'centrepiece' of EC policy.

European politicians admitted they were deeply gloomy over the implementation of the Vance-Owen plan and regard the Joint Action Programme as only a temporary measure. Senior British sources said Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, remains very pessimistic about success, and in three days of meetings nobody produced any proposals for getting from the 'safe areas' havens to a peace plan. Crucially, there is no means of reversing Serbian territorial gains. Without this, an agreement backed by all parties is unlikely to emerge.

The next step is to decide on the implementation of 'safe areas'. Nato is to provide air power for this, and alliance ministers meet in Athens today to discuss the issue. But Nato sources in Brussels did not expect any agreement in detail, because the mission has yet to be fully specified by the UN.

Senior diplomats admit things have happened in a rather random way and that 'there's more to be done'. A special hotline between Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, and Manfred Worner, Nato's Secretary-General, is one option. A permanent Nato representation in New York at the UN is also being considered.

BELGRADE - Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg met the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, yesterday, to try to breathe new life into the Vance-Owen plan, and secure the release of Mr Milosevic's imprisoned political opponent, Vuk Draskovic, writes Marcus Tanner.

'We will be talking not only about the situation in Bosnia, but about Croatia, Macedonia and Kosovo, in fact about the whole of former Yugoslavia,' Lord Owen said at Belgrade airport. He held separate talks with Milosevic opponents.

(Photograph omitted)