Karadzic bows to Milosevic pressure

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The Independent Online
LAST NIGHT'S sudden return of the Bosnian Serbs to peace negotiations came after considerable pressure had been brought to bear by President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, who was facing the tough new sanctions brought into force by the United Nations at the beginning of the week. One of the new sanctions - seizing Belgrade's financial assets abroad - was known to affect Mr Milosevic personally because of his involvement in several front companies registered in Cyprus but owned by Serbs.

It was also the threat of UN- authorised air strikes that apparently broke the Serbian intransigence. President Bill Clinton was expected to announce today his government's policy of calling for air strikes against Serbian artillery positions.

The Athens summit was a swift and bold action by the two mediators of the UN-sponsored peace plan, Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, the former US secretary of state. Over the last six months they had managed to gain the acceptance of two of three warring factions in Bosnia, the Muslims and the Croats, but the Serbs had always rejected their plan to divide Bosnia into 10 semi-autonomous provinces.

One of the 'points of clarification' included a new concept of an international corridor in the north-eastern part of Bosnia that will be policed by the UN troops. The Serbs had wanted this corridor to ensure freedom of movement of the population. The adjusted plan provides for a 10-kilometre demilitarised zone on the the north-eastern corridor.

In addition, a second adjustment provides for 'clarification' of the extent of the international access to the Bosnian rail and road system after the the Vance-Owen plan goes into operation. 'The idea is to guarantee freedom of movement more broadly in the region,' said the spokesman for the mediators. 'It is essentially the same plan as before. What we are doing is introducing a new level of detail in the hope that Mr Karadzic will look at the plan more objectively than he has in the past.'

Each of these measures is being put forward at the Athens summit as a confidence-building measure in the hope that the Bosnian Serbs will be persuaded to sign the peace plan.

The summit seems bound to postpone any announcement that Mr Clinton was planning on the new US policy in Bosnia, but the plans for air strikes will be there, as will other Security Council measures for new safe areas in Bosnia if Athens does not produce a breakthrough in the Serbian attitude.