US rejects peace resolution: Washington looks for delay on proposals to divide Bosnia

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The Independent Online
THE United States yesterday rejected the British draft of a United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the peace plan drawn up by Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance for Bosnia that was signed last week by two of the three warring factions. Security Council endorsement of the plan is one of the key moves now needed if the plan is ever to be implemented.

The plan has been signed by the Muslims and the Croats, but rejected by the Serbs. Mr Vance and Lord Owen, Britain and France hoped that a full endorsement of the plan by the Security Council would be one of several ways, including increased sanctions, of persuading the isolated Serbs to sign the agreement.

However, the Clinton administra tion has always been lukewarm on the Vance-Owen plan that would divide the state into semi-autonomous provinces believing it would codify some areas that have been subjected to 'ethnic cleansing' by the advancing Serbian forces.

In the initial discussions of the British draft the US wants language that would endorse only 'agreements reached so far' in the plan. One reason, according to officials, is that the US is not yet ready to participate in the plan's implementation and is looking for a delay. Implementation of the plan would involve a much larger UN force with Nato participation and, therefore, US participation. Exactly how the US forces would be integrated has not yet been worked out between the UN and European Nato members.

In Bosnia, meantime, the UN is ready to restart its helicopter evac uation of wounded Muslims from Srebrenica today if it obtains approval from Bosnian Serbs, a UN military spokesman said in Tuzla yesterday.

The first helicopter airlift from the besieged eastern Bosnian town last Wednesday was called off after the Serbs shelled the landing zone, killing three people and wounding six, including two Canadian UN soldiers.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees was trying to get another humanitarian aid convoy of 16 lorries into Srebrenica, from where more than 2,000 people were evacuated on Monday to the Muslims' northern Bosnian stronghold of Tuzla. 'We have been guaranteed safe passage,' said a UNCHR spokesman, John MacMillan.

On Monday, desperate refugees crammed into the UN lorries and two people died in an eight-hour journey to Tuzla. A baby was killed when one lorry sprang open, causing about 25 people to fall out on to the road.

Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman in Geneva, said the mayhem showed the need for regular UN convoys to bring food and medicines to people stranded in eastern Bosnia.

'There were thousands of desperate people in that town who would do anything to get out - which highlights the need for the United Nations to get a regular convoy lifeline to convince people that they will not be left there alone to die,' he said. 'It was absolute chaos in Srebrenica. As soon as the lorries unloaded, people rushed to the lorries and jumped on. Some stayed on the lorries all night.'

UNHCR relief workers in Srebrenica say that after 11 months of siege, shelling and little food, the 60,000 inhabitants are reaching the end of their tether.

The UN is also concerned that its next helicopter airlift might be endangered by crowds mobbing the aircraft as soon as they landed.