Izetbegovic urges MPs to reject Geneva deal: Bosnian President declares proposed peace plan unfair to Muslims and casts doubt on prospect of imminent settlement

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The Independent Online
BOSNIAN MPs and senior figures seem likely to reject the plans for division of the country on Friday, plunging the Geneva peace talks into confusion and threatening the prolongation of the war into another bitter winter.

The Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, said yesterday that he would recommend that the parliament reject the peace settlement proposed for his republic in Geneva last week. He said MPs and other important Bosnian figures, would meet in the central town of Zenica, probably on Friday, to discuss the plan but he expected them to dismiss it. 'I will not suggest that they vote for such a proposal,' he said in Sarajevo. 'I believe that this kind of proposal will be unacceptable.'

His comments, at a press conference on his return to the Bosnian capital, represented a hardening of his position. Other members of the Bosnian government delegation had criticised the plan - accepted in principle by Bosnian Serb and Croat leaders - while Mr Izetbegovic had said he would study the proposals.

The plan put forward by international mediators retains the principle of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a single state but sets up three autonomous regions in which each nationality would be dominant. The Serbs would have 50 per cent of Bosnia's territory, the Muslims 32 per cent and the Croats 17 per cent, while Sarajevo would be under a United Nations governor and the city of Mostar would be under European Community supervision.

The Bosnian President said the plan was unfair to the Muslims, chiefly because it awarded the Serbs too much territory in northern and eastern Bosnia. 'The majority of the area that has been ethnically cleansed remains under the control of the Serbian armed forces and Serbian paramilitary units,' he said.

Before the war, Muslims were the largest nationality in Bosnia with 44 per cent of the population compared with 32 per cent for the Serbs and 17 for the Croats. Although the rump Muslim region proposed at Geneva is smaller than that offered to the Serbs, it contains important towns and industrial facilities, a feature which the mediators, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, hope will make it a viable economic and administrative unit.

Mr Izetbegovic said the Geneva proposals had good points, notably the fact that Bosnia would remain a UN member with its international legal identity maintained and its territorial integrity at least nominally preserved. He said it was a success that the Muslim-led Bosnian government delegation had prevented the partition of Sarajevo into Muslim and Serbian sectors, as first suggested by the Serbs, as well as the division of Mostar into Muslim and Croatian sectors. 'If there are two cosmopolitan cities in this part of the world, then they are Sarajevo and Mostar. We had hours of negotiations in Geneva to save the souls of these two cities,' he said.

He said he would press for changes in the ethnic maps proposed for Bosnia, but otherwise his government and armed forces would continue the war. 'The fighting can go on either at the negotiating table or on the ground. So if we are to achieve anything, we will do it at the negotiating table, if not, then on the ground. There is no third way,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

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