UN summit proposal in disarray

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

DIPLOMATIC confusion reigned last night as Russia was expected to call an extraordinary foreign ministers meeting of of the UN Security Council to discuss further measures on Bosnia, despite signals that the United States might not attend.

Russia, which holds the presidency of the Council until June, had originally called for a high-profile session on global peace-keeping issues, with Moscow setting the agenda to demonstrate to hardliners at home that Russia is not in the pocket of the West. The Clinton administration, however, made clear it was not ready for such a discussion pending Congress deliberations on the US peace-keeping budget. The agenda was then confined to practical proposals on the former Yugoslavia.

But UN sources said the US objections remained because the real problem was disunity with the other allies over Bosnia. Andrei Kozyrev, the Russian Foreign Minister, was still expected in New York on Friday to chair the meeting and other foreign ministers were expected to attend. The situation was described as 'a shambles'.

The meeting would consider measures such as sending UN monitors to check the closures of the border between Bosnia and Serbia proper; the building up of the 'safe areas' established by the UN; and - in a rare attempt at preventive diplomacy - the dispatching of reinforcements to Macedonia and possibly Kosovo. The measures are considered interim steps while the Vance-Owen peace plan remains opposed by Bosnian Serbs following their weekend 'referendum'.

Meanwhile, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, the EC and UN mediators, will arrive in the Croatian town of Split today to prepare for talks with Croatian and Bosnian Muslim leaders. Mr Kozyrev will also go to Croatia and then on to Belgrade.

Tomorrow and Thursday, the foreign ministers of the Western European Union will meet in Rome, where Mr Kozyrev has also invited himself for talks on the margins.

Telephone consultations between the US and the European allies will continue throughout the week as President Bill Clinton prepares for an announcement on possible military action. Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, said the same options were on the table as when he toured Europe two weeks ago - air strikes and a lifting of the arms embargo on Bosnian Muslims. The US may choose to announce that the Bosnian Serbs face air strikes should they violate the safe areas declared by the UN.

Meanwhile in Moscow the Defence Minister Pavel Grachev yesterday rejected any direct Russian military role in the former Yugoslavia. Not a single Russian soldier, he said, 'is being prepared for or will be sent into Yugoslavia. This is my firm decision'.

His comments appear to conflict with a Russian pledge to provide border monitors in Bosnia, reflecting a continuing debate in Russia between hard-liners and the Foreign Ministry.

Hard-liners regard the Bosnian Serbs as their Orthodox Slav brethren and oppose any actions against them. The Foreign Ministry has supported virtually every joint international action on the former Yugoslavia.

British officials yestrday dismissed a threat by the head of the Bosnian Serb army, General Ratko Mladic, that he would 'bomb London' if the West intervened with air strikes to force the peace plan on the Bosnian Serbs. London was 'a city which is pretty used to threats,' one commented.