Muslims and Croats seek more territory from Serbs

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The Independent Online
BOSNIAN Muslim and Croat leaders, who recently ended a year-long war, are proposing that the new Muslim-Croat state in Bosnia-Herzegovina should contain 58 per cent of the republic's pre-war territory. The initiative seems certain to meet resistance from the Bosnian Serbs who, after two years of war, control 70 per cent of Bosnia and would have to give up more than one-third of that to satisfy the Muslims and Croats.

Bosnia's Muslim Prime Minister, Haris Silajdzic, and the Bosnian Croat leader, Kresimir Zubak, agreed on the target of 58 per cent on Wednesday in Vienna. They agreed the Muslim-Croat state should consist of eight cantons: four with a Muslim majority, two with a Croat majority, and two - in Travnik in central Bosnia and Mostar in the south - governed on the basis of Muslim-Croat parity.

Under the agreement, the first president of the new federation will be a Croat and the first prime minister a Muslim. Out of 17 federal government ministries, the Muslims will have 11 and the Croats six. Mr Silajdzic, asked if he expected the Serbs to give up 28 per cent of Bosnia, said he thought 'the international community will not permit genocide and aggression to be rewarded'. Mr Zubak added that if the Muslim-Croat state could not achieve its goal through international mediation, 'we have the right to realise it by other means'. This may harden the Serbs' determination to cede as little conquered land as possible.

The Muslim-Croat federation was proclaimed in March largely at the urging of the United States, which opposed Croatia's attempt to join Serbia in carving up Bosnia.

It is unclear if the Bosnian Serbs are expected to join the federation, thus effectively restoring Bosnia as a united, if decentralised, state in its pre-war borders. Another possibility is that Bosnia would be split in two, leaving the Bosnian Serbs free to merge their section with Serbia.

The US is reluctant to endorse partition, since it would countenance Serbian war gains. However, the US and its allies seem uncertain whether to press the Serbs into joining a restored Bosnian republic. All Serbian leaders have made clear they will never contemplate that.

Croatian nationalists are suspicious about the motives of international mediators in stipulating that the Muslim-Croat state in Bosnia should be linked to Croatia in a confederation. They fear this is the first step in a process that will finish by locking together Serbs, Croats and Muslims into something resembling the old Yugoslav state.

Living together again, page 19