Muslim rivals find no time for big issue

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The Independent Online
THE tug-of-war between rival Muslim leaders in Bosnia yesterday prevented the leaders from hammering out a response to plans to partition the republic into three states.

One part of Bosnia's seven-member presidency led by Fikret Abdic gathered for the session in the Bosnian embassy in Zagreb, while Bosnia's President, Alija Izetbegovic, stayed put in Sarajevo and insisted the session take place there instead.

In Sarajevo, Ejup Ganic, a member of the presidency and a close ally of Mr Izetbegovic, issued a dire prediction that the war in Bosnia would last another 15 years, and would be accompanied by terrorist attacks if the world helped to 'finish off' Bosnia.

'I do not want to be responsible for terrorism, but it will happen in Europe,' he predicted. Mr Ganic added that there were at least a million Bosnians roaming around Europe as refugees or Gastarbeiter. 'If the European Community try to sell Bosnia these people will behave like robots and there will be a disaster,' he said.

Ruling out the plan to partition Bosnia as tantamount to an endorsement of ethnic cleansing, Mr Ganic promised the military struggle for a united Bosnia would carry on to the end. 'We will have heavy casualties but we will continue to resist and I can tell you we cannot be destroyed,' he said. He went on to blast Britain for what he claimed was strong anti- Muslim prejudice. 'The French people support Bosnia but the government do not, while the British are even worse,' he said. 'Bosnia is paying the price for the hostility to Islam of the British government.'

Mr Abdic, 47, threw down a gauntlet to Mr Izetbegovic last week when he pleaded for Bosnia's presidency at least to consider the plan to split Bosnia into three ethnic-based states. He savaged Mr Izetbegovic as a man of war and claimed most Muslims no longer supported him. As a more flexible negotiator than Mr Izetbegovic, Mr Abdic is reported to have won backing from Lord Owen in his bid for the Bosnian Muslim leadership.

The Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia presented a joint plan for a three-way division of Bosnia at talks in Geneva with the international mediators, Thorvald Stoltenberg and Lord Owen.

The poorly mapped plans have raised a host of problems. In particular a suggested Muslim corridor to the sea treads on everyone's toes. There is only one route for that corridor, down the River Neretva to the Croatian port of Ploce and the sea. It runs through Jablanica and Mostar.

Both are strategically vital to the Muslims and to the Croats - and not just the Bosnian Croats of Herzeg- Bosnia but Croatia proper. North of Jablanica lies a complex of hydro-electric power stations which supply Herzeg-Bosnia and some of Croatia with electricity. There was heavy fighting between Muslims and Croats in this sector yesterday. If the Muslims control this complex they could demand access to the sea or interfere with supplies.

Yesterday, all three parties continued their scramble for territory, if only to use it as a bargaining counter. Fierce fighting continued in the Posavina corridor around Brcko in the far north linking the two lobes of the Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia, where Muslims and Croats fight together against the Serbs. At its narrowest point the Posavina corridor, linking the Serb heartland with the Serb-controlled north-west, is just 1,500 metres wide.

In spite of their great superiority in firepower the Serbs seem to be losing at the moment. Last week they attacked in the Banovici area south-west of Tuzla and towards Turbe, west of where the British are based, but in both cases were driven back.