Serbs to 'examine' plan for border observers

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SERBIAN leaders have grudgingly agreed to 'examine' a Russian initiative to deploy United Nations observers on the border between rump Yugoslavia and Bosnia, but insist the plan must include the deployment of international observers on the border between Bosnia and Croatia.

Belgrade has no big problem endorsing more UN peacekeepers around the 'safe areas'. But Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic opposes observers down the Drina river between Serbia and Bosnia because the move would highlight Belgrade's non-enforcement of a proclaimed blockade against Bosnian Serbs.

Mr Milosevic announced the blockade immediately after the self-styled Bosnian Serb parliament rejected the Vance-Owen plan. But long after it was to come into effect lorries, including petrol tankers, rumble across the bridge from Serbia to Bosanska Raca in Bosnia at the same rate as before the so-called blockade, a fact UN observers could hardly fail to spot.

Meanwhile, in spite of Western diplomatic claims that the Bosnian Serb referendum lacks legitimacy and is not important, the Bosnian Serbs have in fact succeeded magnificently in their aim - to use the 90 per cent 'no' vote to stymie all further progress on carrying out the plan.

At a special session in Pale, near Sarajevo, planned for later this week, the Bosnian Serb parliament is expected to announce the final referendum result and proclaim anew the independence of 'Republika Srpska' - the Serbian state-within-a-state in Bosnia.

Mr Karadzic has told Western journalists 'not to call me the leader of Bosnian Serbs any more - I am the President of a new Serbian state in the Balkans'. He said that his signature to the Vance-Owen plan in Athens is now completely worthless following the referendum's 'no' result.

In Mostar, the worst recent flashpoint between Bosnian Croats and Muslims, the city was reported quiet yesterday after days of intense fighting. Sarajevo Radio claimed three Muslim fighters died in the city on Monday while Croats claimed five Croatian fighters died. At Medjugorje, Presidents Franjo Tudjman and Alia Izetbegovic produced familiar platitudes on improving communications between Croat and Muslim military chiefs. But there is scant chance of containing the conflict between the former allies, now that relations have plummeted so far.