Muslims set to reject land deal

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The Independent Online
BOSNIA'S parliament seems certain to reject a central feature of the Geneva peace plan when it meets in Sarajevo on Friday, Bosnian government sources said yesterday. It was expected to endorse President Alija Izetbegovic's view that the plan awards too much territory in northern and eastern Bosnia to the Bosnian Serbs, and leaves too little for a Muslim-majority rump Bosnian state.

Haris Silajdzic, the Bosnian Foreign Minister, said: 'The latest proposal needs considerable adjustments to be accepted. A mere look at the map shows that a future Bosnian republic is not, in my view, viable either economically or politically'.

The provisional parliament of Bosnia's rebel Croats will convene on Saturday to vote on the peace plan, their leader Mate Boban said yesterday. The Serbs' self-proclaimed assembly will vote a day earlier.

The Geneva plan, drawn up by international mediators, proposes a three-way partition of Bosnia among the Serbs, Muslims and Croats with the diplomatic fiction of a united Bosnian state preserved. The Serbs would receive 50 per cent of Bosnia, the Muslims 32 per cent and the Croats 17 per cent. But the Serbs would control large parts of northern and eastern Bosnia, which had Muslim majorities until the Serbs began their campaign of forced expulsions of non-Serbs after the war broke out in April 1992.

Mr Silajdzic said it was unacceptable that towns such as Bijeljina, Foca, Visegrad and Zvornik in eastern Bosnia, and Prijedor, Sanski Most and Kljuc in the north, should remain in Serbian hands. 'These towns and areas, ethnically cleansed, would, according to this proposal, belong to the perpetrators of these crimes. But they had Muslim majorities. Thus aggression and genocide are rewarded and the victims are punished,' he said.

He added that the small enclaves of land set aside for the Muslims in eastern Bosnia, such as Srebrenica, were 'not very serious, to say the least' since the Serbs surrounded them and had them at their mercy.

Mr Silajdzic said that if the world endorsed the acquisition of territory by force, as in the Geneva plan, there would be no point in operating an international tribunal to punish alleged war criminals. 'If the crimes are legalised, why punish the perpetrators?' he said.

Bosnian officials said that, since the Geneva proposals became known last week, messages had been pouring into government offices from Muslims expelled from their homes in northern and eastern Bosnia. The messages urged Bosnia's leaders not to sign an agreement that capitulated to Serbian expansionism, the officials said.

On the other hand, the relaxation of Serbian pressure on Sarajevo in the past two weeks, and the partial restoration of electricity and water supplies, have caused many people in the Bosnia capital to hope that peace and a normal life may finally be in sight. These people argue that Mr Izetbegovic and Mr Siladjzic are holding out for too much and that, since the war is unwinnable and a winter of deprivation lies ahead, it may be better to accept the Geneva terms while they can.