Serbs demand new Bosnia map

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RADOVAN KARADZIC, the Bosnian Serb leader, yesterday presented his parliament's answer to the latest international peace proposal to the diplomats of the 'contact group', but again declined to make it public.

Diplomats in Geneva said they expect Mr Karadzic to offer a 'yes, and . . .' reply - a refinement of the 'yes, but . . .' response that Russia and the West earlier said would be interpreted as a 'no'. The Serbian response will be announced today in Pale, the Bosnian Serb capital, according to Aleksa Buha, the Bosnian Serb Foreign Minister.

Another official, Momcilo Krajisnik, said that the 'difficult' decision which was taken by the Bosnian Serb assembly 'reflected caution as a result of our negative experience with the international community'.

Mr Karadzic, who held a brief meeting with diplomats from the contact group yesterday, said in Geneva: 'Yes, I am carrying a pink envelope.' This contains the response formulated by his MPs in Pale on Tuesday, and which is believed to be 'yes - with six conditions'.

According to Tanjug, the official Serbian news agency, Pale's demands include 'corrections' to the map of Bosnia drawn up by the contact group. The Serbs want access to the Adriatic, the immediate lifting of United Nations sanctions on Serbia and constitutional changes, including sovereignty for the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb state and a seat at the UN.

This last demand sits uneasily with the contact group's determination to maintain Bosnia's present borders. Anthony Lake, the US National Security Adviser, warned the Serbs of 'consequences' if they made their assent conditional.

'We did not enter into this diplomatic process in order to preside over the creation of a greater Serbia. The principle of a Bosnian union is fundamental,' he said.

Washington's hard line may not reflect the feeling of other contact group members, particularly Britain, France and Russia, which have troops serving as UN peace- keepers in Bosnia. Although the US has said it foresees an expanded role for Nato in Bosnia whatever the outcome of the plan, Malcolm Rifkind, the British Defence Secretary, yesterday emphasised London's opposition to military intervention in the region.

The contact group's discussions with both warring factions are due to continue today, and no decisions are expected until a meeting of foreign ministers in 10 days.

The Bosnian Prime Minister, Haris Silajdzic, said his government was not willing to negotiate much further. 'We cannot go one thousand times into ifs and buts,' he said. 'Any conditions mean 'no'.' The contact group, desperate for a resolution to the war, is unlikely to agree.

SARAJEVO - Serbs pushed a small group of Muslim refugees on to the government-held side of Sarajevo yesterday after forcing them from their homes in a rural area east of the city, Reuter reports. It was the second such expulsion this week.