Milosevic says no peace until sanctions lifted

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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia raised the stakes yesterday in the confrontation between the West and the Bosnian Serbs, suggesting that negotiations on a Bosnian peace settlement should not resume until the United Nations lifted sanctions against Serbia. Mr Milosevic made his remarks at a meeting in Belgrade with Yasushi Akashi, the UN special envoy, and General Bertrand de Lapresle, the UN commander for former Yugoslavia.

The UN imposed economic sanctions on Serbia in 1992 in the belief that Mr Milosevic's government was providing substantial military and financial support to the Bosnian Serbs. The sanctions were made even tougher last year and have inflicted such damage on the Serbian economy that Belgrade regards their removal as one of its most urgent objectives.

'Sanctions imposed against Serbia and the Serb nation represent a constant impetus for the (Muslim-led) Bosnian authorities to go on with the war. That is why lifting the embargo is the simplest way to make the Bosnian authorities abandon their war policy,' Mr Milosevic said.

Before Nato launched air strikes on Sunday and Monday against Bosnian Serb targets around the eastern Muslim enclave of Gorazde, some Western countries had proposed a gradual lifting of the anti-Serbian sanctions in return for progress on a Bosnian settlement.

However, the prospects for a peace deal, or even a general ceasefire in Bosnia, have greatly receded since Nato's attacks, although yesterday Bosnian Serbs besieging the Muslim enclave of Gorazde did agree to a ceasefire locally. According to the Bosnian Serb Srna news agency, the Russian special envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said after a meeting with the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, that the 'accord should help lead to a general ceasefire between Muslims and Serbs.'

Mr Karadzic told the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, in a letter yesterday that his units would treat UN troops in Bosnia as a potentially hostile force. According to the UN, Bosnian Serb authorities are keeping 55 UN military observers under virtual house arrest in various Serb-held parts of Bosnia.

The Bosnian Serbs have also arrested 11 French charity workers, accusing them of trying to smuggle ammunition to the Muslims in a convoy of European Union food aid. The charity, Premiere Urgence, says the Serbs planted the ammunition in the vehicles. The Bosnian Serbs have threatened to put the 11 on trial, while Paris has denounced the arrests as an act of hostage-taking.