Impartiality of Owen challenged

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The Independent Online
THE leader of Bosnia's Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, yesterday denounced the proposed appointment of Lord Owen, the former foreign secretary, to head the EC's peace-making efforts in Yugoslavia, writes Tony Barber. 'Since Lord Owen has stated quite categorically that he has no faith in a negotiated settlement without military intervention, and that intervention should be against one side only, he is clearly not in a position to mediate.'

Lord Owen's name was put forward by the British government, which holds the EC presidency. He would replace Lord Carrington, who said on Tuesday that he was stepping down as chairman of the EC peace conference on Yugoslavia. Diplomats said EC foreign ministers had met on Tuesday evening and had not objected to Lord Owen's nomination.

The Bosnian Serbs oppose the appointment because Lord Owen has publicly advocated an enhanced Western military role in the former Yugoslavia. In particular, he wants a United Nations Security Council ultimatum threatening the use of air power if there is unauthorised movement or firing of artillery, tanks, armoured troop carriers and military aircraft. In Bosnia, this would be directed largely against Serbian forces, which control about two- thirds of the republic.

Lord Owen acknowledges that Serbian ground-to-air missiles could shoot down Western aircraft, and says he is not suggesting that UN forces should separate the combatants in Bosnia.

He also argues that without swift action a Serbian offensive is likely in the southern province of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 90 per cent of the population. Western air power would deter the Serbs from increasing their military presence in Kosovo, he says.

Few of Britain's major EC allies seem sorry to see Lord Carrington go. In January, Germany led the way in dismissing his advice not to recognise Croatia. France later argued that his diplomacy was getting nowhere and the UN Security Council needed to be more actively involved. France also took the initiative in sending troops to the former Yugoslavia under UN auspices. Lord Owen's interventionism appears to square well with this approach, but it is possible that some EC states would have preferred a non-Briton to succeed Lord Carrington.