Many suspect the split represents only a switch of tactics in the Serbian President's efforts to create an enlarged Serbian state dominated by himself.
Mr Milosevic broke with the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, by endorsing the five- power 'contact group' proposal to allocate 51 per cent of Bosnia-
Herzegovina to a Muslim-Croat federation and 49 per cent to the Bosnian Serbs. The latter control about 70 per cent of the republic, and Mr Karadzic wants to give up as little of that as possible.
However, Mr Milosevic's approval obscures the fact that, whereas the five-power plan envisages keeping the principle of Bosnia as a single state, he has refused to give unequivocal recognition to Bosnia in its pre-war borders.
In similar fashion, he has refused to recognise the frontiers of Croatia, where rebel Serbs have controlled about 30 per cent of the republic since the war of 1991.
The implication is that he continues to believe that Serb-populated or Serb-controlled parts of Croatia and Bosnia should be united with Serbia and Montenegro in a Greater Serbia. While he seldom talks openly about such goals, the unification of all Serbs in one state has been a theme of Serbian nationalism since the mid-19th century.
At a landmark congress of Serbian intellectuals last April, historians, economists and linguists went into great detail about the best methods of uniting Serbia with other Serb-populated lands in former Yugoslavia. The congress was an officially controlled event that forbade all criticism of Mr Milosevic. His tactics were best summed up by Borisav Jovic, the vice-president of the ruling Soc ialist Party of Serbia, in a Belgrade radio interview last Thursday.
'What every Serb should know is that the just struggle of the Serbian people for its national rights has, so far, been realised to the extent to which the inter national community was willing to recognise it. The present extent . . . reflects the realistic maximum that can be achieved by war,'
In refusing to accept this point, Mr Karadzic has incurred Mr Milosevic's wrath for several months. Since May, he has been subjected to a barrage of Belgrade propaganda depicting him as corrupt, an obstacle to peace and an enemy of the true Serbian cause.
In just the same way, Mr Milosevic has disposed of Vojislav Seselj, his main nationalist opponent in Serbia, and subdued Milan Babic, a rival in the Serb-held Krajina region of Croatia. The point is not that Mr Karadzic, Mr Seselj and Mr Babic disagree with Mr Milosevic on long-term Serbian goals, but that each has threatened to slip the leash of Belgrade.
Some diplomats think that Mr Milosevic accepted the peace plan because he is anxious to see an end to UN sanctions on Serbia. However, Serbia's economy has staggered along despite sanctions for more than two years.
A likelier explanation is that
Mr Milosevic sees a chance to redeem Serbia's pariah status on the world stage while quietly tightening Belgrade's grip on the 49 per cent of Bosnia offered to the Serbs.Reuse content