UN throws weight behind plan

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The Independent Online
VOICE upon voice has been raised among the Bosnian Muslims this week to protest against the plan put forward in Geneva to partition their country, but it is clear that the Security Council has put its weight behind a solution that Lord Owen himself regards as far from ideal.

Thorvald Stoltenberg, the co-chairman of the Geneva talks, arrives in Zagreb this morning fresh from briefing the Security Council in New York. He received an unpublicised degree of backing by the council for the mediators' efforts to bring Muslims, Serbs and Croats to Geneva next Monday to sign their assent to the plan.

The mediators think they have achieved the best that could be extracted for a government that at present occupies only about 10 per cent of its land. Under the proposals, the administration of President Izetbegovic would transform itself into that of a Muslim state with sovereignty over some 30 per cent of the present Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A map outlining the future state boundaries shows that the Serbs will have to pull back from considerable areas to allow Muslim rule. The Serbs, thus far, have agreed to do this.

None the less, the Bosnian republic's parliament, which meets on Friday, is unlikely to approve the plan if the present level of rhetoric provides a true indicator of its intentions.

Yesterday, the Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic, who belongs to the fight-to-the-air-strike persuasion, said that the map would have to be redrawn. He claimed that President Izetbegovic agreed with his thesis that 'aggression and genocide are rewarded and the victims are punished at the same time'.

The Foreign Minister named towns swept of their Muslim inhabitants by the Serb militias. The sad truth, as Lord Owen might say, is that there exists not the slightest chance that these towns could be subject to negotiation while military advantage favours the Serbs.

President Izetbegovic will be called upon to speak his own mind when the parliament is joined by army officers, intellectuals and figures from public life. During the talks he struck a less diehard posture than that espoused by Mr Silajdzic. But, striving to retain the consensus of his delegation, he has always kept to the line of stubborn resistance, lest compromise divide an already fractious governing body.

Against the backdrop of these vagaries in Muslim politics, Mr Stoltenberg marshalled arguments which the Security Council no doubt found glumly compelling. The mediators have by now learnt to diverge from most world opinion in regarding all sides as morally equal in their capacity for waging ethnic warfare. They both regard the offensive unleashed by Muslim forces against the Croats in the centre of the country as the most tragic and destabilising event to afflict Bosnia in recent months. Through the siege of Mostar and other reverses, this action has rebounded upon President Izetbegovic. It made his pleas for Sarajevo resound less plaintively in their ears.

In private, UN officials and Western diplomats have already concluded that if the peace plan should founder, then the UN is ready to consider withdrawing its aid workers from areas of great danger. It is an argument which, we may assume, has been pressed with great emphasis upon President Izetbegovic - if not upon his firebrand foreign minister.

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