Lord Owen admits his peace plan has failed: Mediator urges Bosnian Muslims to consider three-way carve-up of Yugoslavia proposed by presidents of Serbia and Croatia

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LORD OWEN conceded yesterday that his peace plan for a multi-ethnic Bosnia was dead and urged the Bosnian Muslims to consider proposals by the Serb and Croat presidents for a three-way carve-up of the former Yugoslav republic.

'The Muslims would be well advised to look very seriously at these proposals and to negotiate,' Lord Owen said a day after the two presidents reached a deal that marked the burial of the Vance-Owen plan to preserve a united Bosnia consisting of 10 semi-autonomous provinces.

Asked if he had failed in his mission over the past 10 months, he told a press conference in Geneva: 'Yes I think I have, in the sense of keeping Bosnia-Herzegovina together in the way I think would have been the fairest.' He added: 'I think there is a tiredness of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and I think most people believe we've got to bring this to an end with as much honour as is possible.'

The US also indicated it might be willing to accept this fait accompli. The Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said although the US continued to support UN resolutions endorsing Bosnia's territorial integrity, he noted that with negotiations under way between Muslims, Croats and Serbs 'it's a dynamic situation'.

In Bonn Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic, rejected the Croat-Serb peace plan and said it could lead to fresh ethnic cleansing.

A spokesman for Lord Owen denied that the Muslims were being urged to accept the proposals agreed between the two former arch-foes, Presidents Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia. 'We are merely urging them to keep negotiating,' he said. The 'ideas and principles' of the Vance-Owen plan should still be contained in any settlement - including 'some row-back on territory' which Serb and Croat forces have occupied by force. It was not clear, however, what would impel the aggressors to implement a withdrawal given that the international community will not force them.

UN monitors reported calm in the Serb-besieged Muslim enclave of Gorazde in eastern Bosnia yesterday but found widespread destruction and a wretched population swollen by 38,000 refugees.

'They reported no shelling in Gorazde for the first time in three weeks, although there were some explosions about 5km (3 miles) from town,' a UN Protection Force spokesman said. He said eight UN military observers (UNMOs) who entered the UN-designated 'safe area' on Wednesday night with the assent of the Bosnian Serb command found 40 per cent of the buildings gutted in an initial patrol of east Gorazde.

Serbs besieging Gorazde had refused until Wednesday to allow outside observers into the town. Hundreds of people were reported killed by a Serb offensive since late May. Muslim forces fought Croats and Serbs on different fronts yesterday against the backdrop of the new peace proposals. In Belgrade, the health of Vuk Draskovic, the jailed Serbian opposition leader, deteriorated suddenly yesterday, prompting a Belgrade magistrate to seek his immediate hospitalisation, his laywers said. His health worsened during questioning of witnesses at the city's central jail, his lawyer Branislav Tapuskovic said.

An anti-personnel mine wounded Patrick Bishop, a Daily Telegraph journalist and a British UN peace- keeping officer in a village north-east of Travnik in central Bosnia yesterday, the UN said. Mr Bishop got out of his vehicle in Sifluk village when the officer, a captain in a British infantry regiment, pointed out a claymore mine attached to a tree trunk at about waist height 10 yards away. Witnesses said the two men moved away, but the mine was detonated with a remote-control switch.

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