Regional 'powers' offered to Serbs

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The Independent Online
GENEVA (Reuter) - Bosnia's Muslim-led government, seeking a deal with Serbs, who have seized much of the republic in five months of fighting, offered yesterday to devolve some powers to local authorities while maintaining a single state.

While the offer appeared to contain few new concessions, it was the first concrete proposal to come out of the Geneva peace talks, which have been marked - at least publicly - by name-calling and allegations of atrocities since they opened on Friday.

The talks were winding down yesterday as Bosnian, Serbian and Croat leaders prepared to quit Geneva and leave deputies to carry on negotiating through the UN and EC mediators.

The proposal, distributed to journalists, called for Bosnia-Herzegovina to be a 'democratic, secular and decentralised state' which could be made up of 'constituent units - regions, which do not have the character of a state'.

The future constitution of Bosnia is at the heart of the conflict which has caused the deaths of more than 10,000 people, brought huge devastation and has already gone a long way towards dividing up the republic along ethnic lines.

There was no immediate reaction to the Bosnian proposal from the Serbs, but it appeared to fall far short of their demands.