Yugoslav leader says Major backs his peace mission

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The Independent Online
MILAN PANIC, who was recently appointed Prime Minister of the rump Yugoslavia, claimed he had received 'moral support' for his 'mission for peace' during a meeting with John Major in London yesterday.

The Downing Street talks were the latest in Mr Panic's hectic international schedule. According to his own count, he has met 36 international leaders since being appointed Prime Minister earlier this month.

The Serbian-born Californian businessman insisted that he was 'not a diplomat or a politician', and that his only desire was an end to the war. 'I don't think it's a dream to make peace, in a country which is torn apart by war. It's obnoxious to think that people will kill for borders that Marshal Tito drew with his pencil.'

Mr Panic has so far proved good on the peace rhetoric, although it remains uncertain whether he can deliver on anything at all. His appointment was proposed by the Yugoslav President, Dobrica Cosic, a noted Serbian hardliner. Mr Panic has made little effort to distance himself from hardliners such as Mr Cosic and President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, still by far the most powerful politician in Belgrade.

Mr Panic's declarations of his desire for peace were not the only fine words spoken about Bosnia in London yesterday. Jose Cutileiro, the Portuguese diplomat who is the European Community's negotiator on Bosnia, announced the creation of a 'co-ordinating committee' on constitutional change in Bosnia, which is supposed to present what Mr Cutileiro described as a 'progress report' within two weeks.

The announcement came on the last day of talks in London involving Radovan Karadzic, on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs, Mate Boban, leader of the Bosnian Croats, and Haris Silajdzic, Bosnia's Foreign Minister. None of them met each other, but all three talked to Mr Cutileiro.

The committee is intended to monitor the distribution of humanitarian aid in Bosnia, and the theoretical (but non-existent) ceasefire. Any party that did not co-operate, said Mr Cutileiro, would have to bear 'grave responsibility'. Despite these ominous threats, the formation of the committee provides only a face-saver for the EC-sponsored talks, which have achieved little except more disagreement. The committee will be chaired by Commandant Colm Doyle, who was the chief EC representative in Sarajevo for several months earlier this year.

The new committee is due to include a representative each from the Croatian, Serbian and Muslim communities. Talks sponsored by the EC are due to resume in three weeks' time.

Mr Cutileiro insisted: 'This EC conference will never accept or condone any constitutional solution which will reward the use of force or the displacement of population.' The Bosnian government fears, however, that the conference may end up doing just that - taking the present Serbian dominance in large areas of Bosnia as a kind of status quo, marking the point from which negotiations begin.

Meanwhile, talks between Serbs and Croats began on board the British frigate Avenger, off Dubrovnik, to discuss the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from the Adriatic port, which is still surrounded after its fierce bombardment last year.

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